Football-fan Pope Francis met Saturday with priests, migrants and Swiss Guards making up his very own team for a charity match this weekend promoting the inclusion of the Roma community.

“Team Pope — Fratelli Tutti” (All Brothers) will face players from a Croatian group, the World Rom Organization, on Sunday at the training grounds of Rome club Lazio — with Lazio star Ciro Immobile refereeing.

Among the Vatican team are three migrants who Francis said were being integrated into Italy after a “path marked by abuse and violence” that included time on the Greek island of Lesbos.

In 2013, the pope brought back three Syrian families from Lesbos, the major point of entry for migrants into Europe. He is returning to the island next month as part of a trip to Greece and Cyprus.

“It is a team where there are no barriers, and which makes inclusion a simple normality,” the 84-year-old pontiff told the players Saturday, according to a Vatican statement.

The match is intended to raise funds for an initiative by the diocese of Rome to promote the inclusion of Roma and other vulnerable people.

During a visit to Slovakia in September, Francis called for “integration” for the marginalised ethnic Roma in the east of the country.

After hearing from Roma at the Lunik IX estate in Kosice, the pope told members of the community that “all too often you have been the object of prejudice and harsh judgements”.

AFP

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