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Best of three as Anglicans and Catholics meet again at the stumps

Posted on: April 14, 2016 8:33 PM
Archbishop Justin Welby with his Archbishop of Canterbury's XI after beating the St Peter's XI in 2014. The Vatican side won in 2015 and now the two sides will meet again in September.

[ACNS] The Vatican Cricket Team, the St Peter’s XI, will again lock horns with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI later this year in Canterbury in the third of what has become an annual cricket match between the two sides. They will then be joined by a Muslim XI for a triangular T20 match at Edgbaston.

The first ecumenical match between the Anglicans and Roman Catholics was played in Canterbury in September 2014. The Anglicans achieved a narrow victory against the Catholic side. The two teams met again last year in Rome, in a match which saw the Vatican side claim the honours. Now, the two sides will meet once more on Tuesday 13 September, again at Kent County Cricket Club’s Spitfire ground in Canterbury.

Later that week, on Thursday 15 September, both teams will travel to Birmingham for a triangular T20 tournament, where they will be joined by players from Mount Cricket Club, a team of Muslim players from Batley in West Yorkshire. That match will take place at Edgbaston, the impressive international ground, which is home to Warwickshire County Cricket Club.

There will then be a final match as the Vatican side finish their tour at Headingley, the home of Yorkshire Cricket Club, on Monday 19 September, when they will again take on Mount.

Organisers say that the tour will be “a joyfull . . . celebration of faith and belief” and will “illustrate that we can be true to our own faith and at the same time cherish diversity.”

They say that “a love of cricket can unite and empower people regardless of nationality or faith,” and that they want “to show that we can be in competing teams yet still love and respect each other [and] to be ambassadors for our respective religions and correct misunderstandings.”

The Anglican side will be selected via the Church Times, which has organised clergy cricket in the UK since 1951 through the Church Times Cricket Cup between Anglican dioceses. The Church Times is one of the tour’s sponsors. The team’s patron is the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Vatican side is an international team of Catholic priests and seminarians who are studying and working in Rome. Their St Peter’s Cricket Club was established in 2013 following the suggestion of the former Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, John McCarthy.

Mount Cricket Club was founded in 1976 and in recent years has worked to widen participation in cricket participation, especially among young people.

Organisers have paid tribute to the England and Wales Cricket Board, which is supporting the matches, as well as the “huge generosity” of the Kent, Warwickshire, and Yorkshire clubs.

“The Anglican players share with their patron, the Archbishop of Canterbury, a belief that faith in God unites people rather than divides them,” the Revd Steve Gray, who captained the Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI in the past two years, said. “This is why it is such a privilege to host teams from the Vatican and Mount Cricket Club at Edgbaston. We’re thrilled that they have accepted the invitation – and the challenge.”

The Revd Mike Vockins was secretary of Worcestershire CCC from 1971 to 2001. He said: “There’s a long and great tradition of cricketing clergy in [England], which has helped to hold the Church of England together over decades and also enabled it to reach out to the wider world in many ways.

“It’s a paradox that competitive sport brings people together so effectively, and increases understanding and respect. This year’s tournament will extend these values to people of another denomination and another faith – which is good news!”