Fr. Eamonn O’Higgins, L.C.

Manager of The Vatican (St. Peter’s) Cricket Team

Guest blogger for FCDO Editorial

Part of UK in Holy See UK in Holy See

7th June 2019

The Vatican Cricket Team: Sport and faith in action

Credit: Maureen McLean Photography

A guest blog written by Fr. Eamonn O’Higgins, L.C., manager of The Vatican (St. Peter’s) Cricket Team, and Fr. Sameer Advani, L.C., co-manager.

Cricket is perhaps not what immediately springs to mind when you think of the Vatican, but the Vatican (St Peter’s) Cricket Team has an important role in building bridges between faiths and nations through sport. With the Cricket World Cup under way,  here is a look at how the Vatican takes part in this ancient game.

The Vatican Cricket Team was founded in 2014, on the initiative of the former Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, John McCarthy, and the Pontifical Council for Culture and Sport of the Vatican.  The British Ambassador to the Holy See – first Nigel Baker and now Sally Axworthy – has been a member of our board since the start, in recognition of the medieval English origins of the game.  The team comprises priests and seminarians who live and work in Rome, from such cricket-playing countries as India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Pakistan and England.  Getting the seminarians to practice is a challenge, as their studies have to come first!

The purpose of the Team is to build cultural and spiritual bridges with other Christian denominations and other faiths. We have conducted five Light of Faith Tours – to the UK (three times), Portugal and Argentina – and have tours planned to Italy and Kenya. We have played the Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, and the a team from the Jewish faith. We have played with prisoners, and spent Christmas 2018 with Cricket Sin Fronteras in Buenos Aires, Argentina, visiting the villas and playing cricket with the young people there.

Cricket builds fellowship through a shared love of the sport. Ambassador Axworthy speaks of the explosion of warmth she experienced when she hosted the Vatican and Anglican teams together for the first time. Doctrinal differences disappeared. The teams were walking the walk of ecumenism, as Pope Francis calls us to. We have had similarly warm and friendly experiences with players of many different faiths and backgrounds.


The Vatican Cricket Team with His Holiness Pope Francis


The tours to the UK have been a particular highlight for us. We played the Royal Household at Windsor Castle and had tea with the Queen. We played matches against a team of Members of Parliament, and against a Commonwealth XI. We visited a young offenders’ prison unit, celebrating Mass and playing a match there. The Vatican Team also visited a London mosque, a Sikh gurdwara, a Hindu temple and a Jewish synagogue to strengthen interreligious relations and to highlight the vital role of faith in contemporary society.

Since its beginnings, the Vatican Cricket Team has been symbolising the issues which are at the heart of Pope Francis and the Holy See’s mission: sport and dialogue; engagement with faith leaders; attention to cultural differences, and to those on the peripheries. Faith and sport both teach young people important values like fair play and teamwork. They teach us to look beyond what divides us to what we have in common. This is why we call it cricket and faith in action.

As the World Cup unfolds in the UK, we will be watching and remembering the warmth and hospitality with which the Vatican Team was received when we visited. And we hope to see our multi-faith co-players again soon!