Super Bowl Sunday is almost as well known for its glitzy new television commercials as for the fact that a football game is played in between. Those brief videos often generate as much buzz as whoever happens to prevail on the field.
This year even Pope Francis is getting in on the act, releasing his own video message for Super Bowl Sunday.
“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,” the pontiff said, in a text of the video released by the Vatican Sunday afternoon Rome time.
“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,” he said, speaking in his native Spanish.
“May this year’s Super Bowl be a sign of peace, friendship and solidarity for the world,” Francis said.
This is the first time a pope has issued such a message specifically for America’s biggest annual sporting event, but certainly not the first time the Argentinian pontiff, an avid soccer fan, has addressed the potential of sports to build bridges.
For the World Cup in 2014, for instance, Francis issued a message calling on sports to help overcome selfishness, greed and racism.
“To win, one must overcome individualism, selfishness, all forms of racism, intolerance and manipulation of people.” He said being “greedy” in football, as in life, is an obstacle.
“Let nobody turn their back on society and feel excluded!” he said. “No to segregation! No to racism!”
Pope Francis has also organized two “Matches for Peace,” drawing big-name soccer stars from around the world for exhibition games in Rome’s Olympic Stadium.
There was no word from the Vatican on Sunday on whether Francis would actually watch the Super Bowl, which airs at 12:30 a.m. in Rome – and certainly, no hint as to whether he’d be rooting for either the Atlanta Falcons or the New England Patriots!
Each year the Super Bowl draws an audience in the United States and abroad estimated at more than 100 million viewers, making it one of the most-watched athletic competitions in the world. Francis, however, may take some comfort in the fact that the 2014 World Cup final was estimated to have garnered almost one billion viewers worldwide, leaving his beloved soccer still comfortably ahead in the audience size contest.