Vatican Dumps Priestly Soccer League For Seminarians' Lack Of Fair Play

Sportsmanship is next to godliness, or so the Vatican thought when it helped launch a soccer league in Rome made up of teams of seminarians. Competition quickly became fierce, and eventually too fierce for the Vatican to be a part of.

Photo - wisun
Photo - wisun

ROME – The Clericus Cup, a football tournament founded in 2007 that brings together international teams from Roman Catholic seminaries, has lost one of its most important sponsors: The Vatican.

So why has the Holy See, which used to sponsor the tournament, withdrawn its support? Blame the less than divine tendencies of the beautiful game: players and supporters of the priests-to-be league, it turns out, seem to tackle as hard and behave as raucously as their counterparts in other leagues around the world.

Rome-based daily La Repubblica reports that the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone – the No. 2 two of the Vatican administration and a big fan of the Italian soccer team Juventus – believes the league that he helped found no longer adequately promotes the values of the Church.

The news has broken just as the 2012 tournament gets underway on the sports fields of Centro Sportivo Italiano opposite the Vatican. In a letter to the organisers of the competition, Father Kevin Lixey criticised them for failing to organize training for seminarians about how to educate young people on the sporting values of respect and solidarity.

Lixey also denounced the "ordinary" i.e. "non-educational" nature of the tournament. In particular, he highlights the behavior of certain supporters. The Italian Bishops Conference – perhaps less fastidious or just more aware of the excesses to which football can lead, despite the best of intentions – has instead to decided to maintain its sponsorship.

The competition brings together players who seem to spend a fair amount of time on the football pitch, especially considering their future careers in the priesthood. Players from the South American and African seminaries in particular have repeatedly demonstrated their excellent ball skills, raising the level of this brand new championship.

Since the start of the competition in 2007, the Redemptoris Mater seminary has taken the prize three times, while the Maria Mater Ecclesiae Seminary of the Legion of Christ and the seminarians of the Gregorian Pontifical University have each taken the top spot once. On the other hand, the North American Pontifical College has had to make do with being least blessed team of the championship after losing two finals and two third-fourth place play-offs. However, its supporters haven't let this get them down: indeed, their use of megaphones has led some of the stadium's neighbours to complain about the noise.

Some will use this story to conclude that football is "culturally stronger" than the Catholic Church in contemporary life. Others will note the longstanding positive relationship between the two – especially in Italy where many players have trained at youth clubs run by priests. But it may just be that the Vatican, which is well-practiced in the art of defense, chose to withdraw its sponsorship as a careful way to avoid defeat.

Read more from Le Monde in French.

Photo - Youtube (wisun)

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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