Football fans heard from Pope Francis tonight at the Super Bowl, besides the half-time entertainment offered by Lady Gaga. In a video message, the pontiff said that sporting events such as the Super Bowl are "highly symbolic" and offer a glimpse at the possibility of human encounter and comity. This is the first time that a pope has spoken directly to the Super Bowl, making the contest between New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons an historic event.
Pope Francis delivered his remarks in his native Spanish, which appeared on the jumbo screens located inside the stadium in Houston. The message was relayed just before the game. Translations will be provided, courtesy of the Vatican. Appearing for the coin toss, was former president George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara Bush.
An advance version of his remarks included his plea for hope that the Super Bowls should provide "a sign of peace, friendship and solidarity for the world."
"Great sporting events like today's Super Bowl are highly symbolic, showing that it is possible to build a culture of encounter and a world of peace," Francis says. "By participating in sport, we are able to go beyond our own self-interest and in a healthy way we learn to sacrifice, to grow in fidelity and respect the rules."
Francis is a native of soccer-mad Argentina and an avid fan of sports, especially soccer. In the past, the pope has commented on the World Cup and the Olympics via Twitter. This his first Super Bowl message.