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 CNS Story:

CLERICUS Nov-20-2007 (410 words) xxxi

Church officials kick off new season of Clericus Cup in Rome

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- Vatican and other church officials kicked off the second season of the enormously popular Clericus Cup soccer series in which 16 teams of seminarians and priests studying in Rome vie for the championship title.

Organizers said they hoped the series' example of ethical sportsmanship and fair play would help infect the wider world of sports, especially in Italy, where a police officer's fatal shooting of a soccer fan Nov. 11 sparked riots across the country.

Bishop Josef Clemens, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, said the Gospels teach that "one must triumph over evil with good."

He said the Clericus Cup was a perfect example of the kind of good that could help guide sport away from "a difficult period."

The bishop and others spoke during a Nov. 20 press conference held at the Italian Olympic Committee headquarters in Rome a few hours before the whistle blew to start the series' first match between Mater Ecclesiae and Rome's major seminary.

Edio Costantini, head of the Italian Sports Center -- the Catholic association that established the soccer series -- said sport taught and played ethically "is a miraculous tool for conquering" the cultural crises that foster violence and apathy in today's society.

He said the organizers' goal with the Clericus Cup was to help future priests experience firsthand "how beautiful it is to play sports." He said he hoped when these priests begin to serve in local dioceses, they would bring that same joy to children and help them become better people and "better citizens" through sports.

Nearly 400 players from 71 different countries -- including players from Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Myanmar and Iraq -- are on this season's rosters. Four new teams have also jumped on board.

The Pontifical North American College returns with its first game against the French college slated for Nov. 25.

The oldest player in the league is a 57-year-old Scotsman who is teamed up with a 54-year-old Australian from Brisbane on the new British Colleges United team.

The youngest squad is the Legionaries of Christ's Mater Ecclesiae team, whose oldest player is 29.

Seminarians representing the 16 teams received their new jerseys during the Nov. 20 press conference. The 2007 champions, Redemptoris Mater, received special team shirts with a small champions shield affixed to the upper left side of their yellow and blue jerseys.


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