Pope Francis admits to taking “joy” from the ability of fellow Argentine Lionel Messi, but is eager to point out that the Barcelona talisman “is not God”.
Many consider the mercurial South American to be a sporting deity, with his achievements raising the bar of individual excellence.
He is worshipped as a hero by millions around the world and has seen his record-breaking on-field efforts lead to him being showered with praise and major honours – both collective and individual.
A five-time Ballon d’Or winner may not seem human to some, but Pope Francis feels it is wrong to bestow labels of “God” onto those who are mere mortals.
Asked by Spanish television show Salvados on La Sexta whether such a billing for Messi could be considered sacrilegious, as it breaks the third commandment by using the Lord’s name in vain, Pope Francis said: “In theory, it’s a sacrilege.“
“You can’t say it and I don’t believe it. I think people say ‘he is God’ just as they say ‘I adore you’. You have to adore only God.
Pope Francis is known to be a football fan.
He is a member at Argentinian side San Lorenzo, having been born and raised in Buenos Aires, and has mingled with stars of the sporting world in the past.