World Cup Pope Match: Francis vs. Benedict?

An Argentina fan wears a mask of Pope Francis as he attends the 2014 World Cup Group F final June 25, 2014, between Argentina and Nigeria at the Beira Rio stadium in Porto Alegre, Brazil. (CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)

Oh God, who do I root for now?

Should I pick the German team from the native land of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI? Or root for the Argentinian squad from the homeland of Pope Francis? Do I go for the Latin American or the Bavarian Catholics?


Maybe I need to go to confession for scrupulosity. I can hear myself now. “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been four days since my last World Cup game.”


“Yes. I took the World Cup in vain five times this week. I cheated on my team with another. I lied about Brazil’s offense.”

Say three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys. Go in peace.

Tick tock, tick tock. Time is running out to make up my mind. Just when I had started to forget that there are two living popes, or least one reigning pope and one former pope, I must now confess to the worst doubt of all: Which team popes better in the World Cup?

Victory will proceed from the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit.

I don’t know what to make of it all. If Germany wins, is it a sign from God that Pope Benedict XVI is the überpope? Is God calling me to root for the compassionate Jesuit pastor from my own religious order, or the German professor who puts on his pants one leg at a time and then writes bestselling books?

Perhaps the two popes will even watch Sunday’s final game together. Will Benedict sit there drinking beer out of a wolf’s head stein while Francis sips from a mug of yerbe mate through a straw? Who controls the remote during commercials?

Where will Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the former pope’s personal secretary, sit?

Some Catholics will want to know what Benedict is wearing to watch the game. Others will want to know if Francis makes any unscripted comments about the referees.

Prayers will be offered by fans on each side. The two popes may pray out loud together for a sportsmanlike game, adding silently that the best team—God knows the right one—should win.

Meanwhile, God will not publicly take any sides in the outcome, although he privately knows who the winner will be. Victory will proceed from the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit.

Although the saints usually blow trumpets before God’s throne, will they switch to vuvuzela horns for the duration of the game? Who is St. Ignatius Loyola rooting for?

Will this year’s result contribute to a greater sense of global solidarity in our common bond as creatures made in the image and likeness of God, suffering together in this vale of tears?

God only knows.

Sean Salai, S.J., is a summer editorial intern serving as associate editor at America.

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Tim O'Leary
4 years ago
I'm rooting for Argentina, as they've been my other team since 1978 (and when the USA gets knocked out). Germany has the most consistent record, including reaching the semis in the last four tournaments (including this one) and with 3 wins in all. And their scoring record and form makes them deserved favorites this time. But, the Argentines have Messi, and the home advantage (continent-wise) and they are basically a cooler team (great jerseys and sphinxlike manager) They will have 3 wins in history if they get this one. Pope Francis will be happy and Pope Emeritus BXVI can console himself with a requiem. He probably appreciates music more than futbol, anyway.

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