A special gift for the pontiff
Pope Francis has been presented with a Celtic shirt signed by the players and manager Brendan Rodgers after their Champions League match against Lazio in Rome. The Scottish champions won the game 2-1 with a late goal from Olivier Ntcham, securing their place in the last 16 of the competition.
The Celtic delegation, led by chief executive Peter Lawwell, met the pope at his weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square on Wednesday morning. They gave him the green and white jersey, which had the number 10 and the name “Francesco” on the back.
The pope, who is a keen football fan and supports Argentine club San Lorenzo, smiled and thanked them for the gesture. He also blessed the shirt and the Celtic representatives.
A historic win for Celtic
The shirt presentation came after a memorable night for Celtic, who became the first Scottish team to win in Italy in European competition. They came from behind to beat Lazio, who had taken the lead through Ciro Immobile in the seventh minute.
James Forrest equalised for Celtic before half-time, and Ntcham scored the winner in the 95th minute with a sublime chip over the goalkeeper. The French midfielder celebrated by making the sign of the cross, a tribute to his Catholic faith and the pope.
Celtic manager Rodgers praised his team’s performance and said they had made history. He also expressed his admiration for the pope and said he was looking forward to meeting him.
“I think he’s a wonderful man for the world, not just for the Catholic Church. I think he’s shown great humility and empathy for people who are in need. I think he’s a very inspirational figure,” Rodgers said.
A show of respect and solidarity
The Celtic shirt gift was also a sign of respect and solidarity for the pope, who has faced criticism and opposition from some conservative sectors of the Catholic Church. He has been accused of being too liberal and reformist, and of undermining traditional doctrine and discipline.
The pope has also faced challenges from the political sphere, especially from populist and nationalist leaders who oppose his views on migration, human rights and the environment. He has called for a more inclusive and compassionate approach to these issues, and has urged dialogue and cooperation among different faiths and cultures.
Celtic, who have a strong Irish and Catholic identity, have shown their support for the pope and his vision of a more open and diverse society. They have also condemned the racist abuse and violence that some of their fans and players have faced in Italy and elsewhere.
The club’s motto is “A club open to all”, and they have a long history of charitable and social work. They have also established links with other clubs and organisations that share their values, such as Barcelona, Liverpool and the Celtic FC Foundation.
The Celtic shirt gift was a way of expressing their gratitude and admiration for the pope, and of celebrating their historic win in Rome.