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Pope's divided loyalties for football friendly

Pope Francis has cheered fellow Argentine Lionel Messi and other football stars as he led a rally of sorts at the Vatican for Argentina and Italy's national teams ahead of their eagerly-awaited friendly match.

Francis, the first pontiff from Latin America, was an avid fan of the Saints of San Lorenzo back in Buenos Aires.

Since his election as Pope in March he has accumulated a growing collection of football jerseys tossed to him by fans at his public appearances. He got two more on Tuesday: an Argentine and an Italian team jersey, each one signed by the players.

Barcelona star Messi, his teammates on the Argentine national squad, as well as Italy's national team players were treated to a private audience with Francis in the Apostolic Palace ahead of today's match, which is being played in tribute to the new Pope.

Francis gracefully dodged the question of whether he would offer a papal blessing for his home country's team.

Belfast Telegraph

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