Will Israel and Hamas 'Pause for Peace' for the World Cup Final?

Vatican calls for moment of silence in Sunday's final to remember those stricken by wars; meanwhile: speculation over whether the Argentinian pontiff will watch the match with his German predecessor.

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Peres and Abbas put their heads together as Pope Francis looks on.
Peres and Abbas put their heads together as Pope Francis looks on. Credit: AFP

With Israel and Hamas engaged in another bitter round of escalation, the Vatican on Friday urged people to take a "pause for peace" during the World Cup final on Sunday.

"Adherents are asking for a moment of silence around the Sunday, July 13 match to remember those stricken by wars and unrest worldwide," AFP cited the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture as saying in a statement.

"Let's have a pause for peace," said Monsignor Melcher Sanchez de Tosca y Alameda, the council's undersecretary, announcing a social media hashtag #pauseforpeace.

According to the statement, there have been calls for a moment of silence to be held at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, but FIFA has not made any official announcements.

"A still, small voice of silence" was how the Vatican's culture minister, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, described it in a statement.

"Sports were born around religious festivities. Sporting events were moments of peace, when wars ceased, as for the Olympic truce," said Sanchez de Toca y Alameda. "Why not for the World Cup, why not a pause, a moment of silence, a truce for peace?"

Calling an Olympic truce is a tradition that dates back to the 9th century, and its legacy is carried on by the International Olympic Committee, which advances initiatives for peace around the world, AFP said. 

With Argentina meeting Germany in the World Cup final, the Vatican on Friday brushed aside talk of soccer rivalry between Argentine Pope Francis and his predecessor Benedict, a German.

In response to the intense media speculation about whether they would watch the game together, which it called "amusing."

A senior Vatican official who works with both Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict told Reuters that no decision had been taken yet on how each of the two would spend Sunday night.

Benedict, the source pointed out, is not a soccer fan, but added: "Let's see. The current situation is unique."

The Vatican's spokesman said he did not believe Benedict, now 87 and living his retirement in seclusion in an ex-convent in the Vatican, would watch the match, because of the late hour.

Francis, the Latin American pope, is most definitely a soccer fan.

As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was a keen supporter of the San Lorenzo soccer club. He is an honorary member of the club nicknamed the Saints of Boedo for the neighborhood where they were founded by a group of young men that included a priest in 1908.

With reporting from Reuters

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