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Pope blesses Vatican cricket team ahead of tour

Members of the St Peter's cricket team, from left, Deepak Anto, captain Anthony Currer, Ajeesh George, Davidson Jestus, and Pratheesh Thomas (PA)

Pope Francis has blessed the Vatican’s cricket club ahead of the team’s first ever tour of England.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the Pope signed a cricket bat that the St Peter’s Cricket Club players will bring with them on the five-match tour, which will include matches against a British armed forces XI in Aldershot and the Royal Household Cricket Club at Windsor Castle. The tour will culminate in a match against a Church of England XI in Canterbury on September 19.

Meanwhle, it has been reported that an experienced umpire who offered his services for the all-important match against the Church of England has had his offer turned down – because his 19th century ancestor was an Anglican bishop.

Michael Claughton, who is president of Bethersden Cricket Club near Ahford, Kent, read that the Church Times newspaper was hosting the match between the Vatican and Church of England teams, but the newspaper rejected his offer to officiate at the match because his great-great grandfather Thomas Claughton was Bishop of Rochester and then of St Albans in the 1860s, 1870s and 1880s, and so he could not be “theologically neutral”.

“It’s bonkers. This is church bureaucracy gone mad. They said to me, we’ll probably be looking for a Methodist or an atheist,” Mr Claughton said.

“People know me and I’m very well known in the cricketing world. It’s been part of my life since I was knee-high to a bee.”

Paul Handley, editor of the Church Times, said: “It’s perfectly true. We wanted to be careful that the match is seen to be completely fairly played, and it was a suggestion from Kent County Cricket Club. They said they will look for umpires and look for people who are theologically neutral.”

The match will be played on the Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence, Canterbury, the home of Kent County Cricket Club.

St Peter’s is led by club captain Father Anthony Currer, from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, and the team is made up of a number of young seminarians from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.