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Pope says he will pray for Sunderland as he poses with top

Pope Francis poses with a Sunderland top that has "Papa Francesco" on the back (Photo: PA)

Pope Francis has said that he will pray for Sunderland football club after being presented with a shirt with “Papa Francesco” on the back.

Fr Marc Lyden-Smith, chaplain to the club and priest at St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Newcastle, managed to give the shirt to the Pope during his general audience on Wednesday despite being in a crowd of 120,000.

He told the Chronicle: “[The Pope] was very interested in where Sunderland were in the league and I told him about the derby and he said he would be very interested to see the results on Sunday.

“He is a bit too diplomatic to be drawn into picking a side but I asked him to pray for the club and he said he would.”