Vatican club builds on spirit of cricket with England tour

Lord's played host to a very special reception as the Vatican XI met community and faith representatives as part of their “Light of Faith” tour.

The sport of cricket has a large, enthusiastic following around the globe with games and clubs popping up in many different and wonderful places – none more so than the Vatican.

St Peter’s XI, also known as the Vatican XI, was established in 2013 to help encourage interfaith dialogue with fellow cricket lovers and consists of Rome-based priests and seminarians.

The team are currently undertaking a 10-day “Light of Faith” tour of England where they face a number of sides, all playing against the backdrop of cross-cultural and interfaith understanding.

This month’s ground-breaking tour is designed to promote community cohesion and features fixtures against the Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI, the predominantly Muslim Mount CC and a multi-faith side from East London comprising Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Buddhist players.

The tour and players’ messages of tolerance, understanding and shared interests have impressed not only those involved but many in the wider cricket world.

England’s Chris Woakes was on hand to offer a few bowling pointers to the St Peter’s players during their official reception at Lord’s on Monday, and he was struck by the shared appreciation for the game: “It’s nice that this game we love and play for a living can also mean so much to people, and bring people together from different faiths, different cultures, different religions.

“It’s good to know that regardless of where you’re from, who you’re from, and what you support outside of cricket, everyone’s treated as one.

“At the end of the day we all love and enjoy playing. I obviously do it for a living and as a job but it’s doing wonders for people around the world and taking the sport to places in the world we never even thought cricket would venture.”

Also present at Lord’s was Abdul Ravat of Mount CC – a Batley-based club widely recognised for their tireless work in the local community – who echoed Woakes’ sentiments.

Ravat will captain Mount CC against St Peter’s CC at Headingley on Monday (19 September) and was in no doubt about the driving factor behind the tour’s success.

“The common denominator is cricket and through cricket, communities and faith are coming together.

“We heard about the Vatican team some time back and decided that we would contact them to see if they would play with us.

“So we wrote to them and they duly accepted, which was a bit of a shock to us! We then got in touch with ECB and Yorkshire Cricket Club and they were very supportive from the start so it just snowballed from there.”

That memorable fixture took place in Rome in October 2015, with the home side clinching a narrow win off the last ball.

The return matches this week and next will build on the wider theme of understanding and respect among the teams and their faiths, said Ravat, with the Headingley fixture dedicated to the memory of Jo Cox, the former MP for Batley and Spen.

“We’ve got fantastic cricket opportunities in places like Edgbaston and Headingley coming up so we’re just absolutely delighted that alongside the cricket we’re building up some fantastic relationships.

“This is a statement we’re making that in this world – when there are so many things happening on the back of religion and humanity – in a small, humble but very sincere way we are also showing that good can come out of faith coming together.”

St Peter’s XI tour itinerary

  • Sunday 11 September: v East London multi-faith team, Woodford Wells Cricket Club
  • Monday 12 September: visit and official reception at Lord’s Cricket Ground
  • Tuesday 13 September: v Archbishop of Canterbury's XI, Canterbury
  • Thursday 15 September: T20 tournament featuring Vatican XI, Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI and Mount CC, Edgbaston
  • Monday 19 September: v Mount CC, Headingley