(ANSA) - Vatican City, October 22 - Tea and cucumber sandwiches were on offer Tuesday as the Vatican launched its own cricket team.
St. Peter's new batsmen will fly the yellow and white colours of the Vatican flag, and give priests and seminarians a new athletic adventure, said officials at the Pontifical Council for Culture.
While the cricket team is set on challenging batsmen from a range of different faiths, the squad from the Church of England - which broke away from the Vatican more than 400 years ago - is high on the list of teams to be vanquished.
Down the road, nuns' teams will also be organized, promoters say, adding the new Vatican squad has taken as its symbol the coat of arms of St. Peter's.
The sport, which is popular in Rome among many Asian communities, will provide another way for people of different backgrounds to come together, organizers say.
"Sports are a powerful means to convey values, attitudes, a moral and ethical message," said Monsignor Melchor Sanchez, honorary president of St. Peter's Cricket Club.
The team, jointly organized between the council for culture and Australia's envoy to the Holy See John McCarthy, will be anchored by the Sri Lankan-born captain of the Italian national team, Vatican Radio reported.
"It is hoped that there will be a team of sufficient level, in the next year (that) could play a team nominated by the Church of England...anything that properly builds interfaith and intercultural relations, understanding and exchange, the Commonwealth of Australia sees as an important part of our diplomacy," said McCarthy, described as a passionate cricket player and former member of the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust.
Cricket is largely unknown to the Italian public but the national cricket team has been an associate member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) since 1995 and is currently ranked 25th in the world.
The Vatican, which sponsors sports through a special body, has an annual soccer tournament for Catholic institutions, the Clericus Cup.
Pope Francis is a card-carrying supporter of his hometown Buenos Aires soccer team, San Lorenzo.