VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has officially launched its cricket club, an initiative aimed at forging ties with teams of other faiths.

The Vatican’s culture ministry marked the occasion by serving tea and cucumber sandwiches. No, Pope Francis isn’t taking up a sport long associated with manicured grounds and English nobility. The soccer-mad “slum pope” still prefers that lower-brow sport.

But he and the Vatican have long championed sports as good for the mind, body and soul. The cricket club is the latest initiative of the Vatican’s culture ministry to use sports to engage in dialogue with the contemporary world.

Australia’s ambassador to the Holy See, John McCarthy, said he hoped the St. Peter’s Cricket Club will field a team to play the Church of England at Lord’s sometime next fall.

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