Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, head of the Church of England, has accepted a challenge from a Catholic team for a cricket match next year.
The challenge from the new St. Peter's Cricket Club was announced Friday by Archbishop David Moxon, Welby's representative to the Vatican, the Catholic Herald reported. The Vatican club was formed this year at the encouragement of Pope Francis.
Moxon said the match is scheduled for September and will probably be at Lord's in London, the world's oldest and most famous cricket ground. Moxon said he had discussed the match in a telephone call with Welby, who hopes it will raise money for charity.
"He said he was delighted by the idea, is looking forward to seeing the teams playing in England, and he appreciates the partnership, the sense of playfulness, and friendship," Moxon said.
Cricket has been played in England at least since the 16th century, an era that also saw the rise of the Church of England. The game, played with a bat and ball, is a distant cousin of American baseball and is famous for its complex and sometimes unwritten rules -- giving rise to the expression "not cricket" -- and for its leisurely play, with test matches lasting for three days.
The game spread around the British empire. Priests and seminarians who have come to Rome from countries like India, Australia and Pakistan are expected to be the backbone of the team, the Catholic Herald said.
"We are convinced that the game being played between teams of these, our two sisterly churches, would evoke much attention and would also be an opportunity to witness our common faith in the Lord through a sport shared so many," Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said in a letter to Welby proposing the match.
Like the Vatican team, the Church of England players will be recruited from theological colleges and seminaries, Moxon said.