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Vatican not sponsoring soccer team, spokesman clarifies October 09, 2007

In an October 9 statement issued to overcome confusion in media reports, the Vatican's chief spokesman emphasized that neither the Holy See nor the Italian bishops' conference has purchased ownership in an Italian professional soccer team.

The Centro Sportivo Italiano, an organization of lay Catholics, has obtained an ownership interest in the Ancona soccer team, which plays in Italy's third division. The Centro Sportivo Italiano promptly announced plans to make the club a model of ethical competition, prompting a spate of news stories that suggested the club had been bought by the Catholic hierarchy.

Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, the director of the Vatican press office, underlined that the Vatican and the Italian bishops' conference "have nothing to do with this project."

"There are initiatives which have positive and commendable aims," Father Lombardi observed. But the hierarchy is not involved.

The official statement from the Vatican was timed for release before Wednesday's papal audience, which will be attended, coincidentally, by the Ancona soccer team. Father Lombardi explained to reporters that the soccer players' appearance should not be taken as an indication "that the Pope has sponsored or taken responsibility for the working of the team."

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