While Pope Francis inadvertently tweeted support for the New Orleans Saints before the team’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars this past weekend, the leader of the Catholic Church apparently is hoping to catch more of the team in the future.
According to a source within the Saints organization, the franchise has received a surprising request from the Vatican, home to Pope Francis.
The Vatican’s request addressed to owner Gayle Benson reportedly asks the team to consider abstaining from playing games or conducting practices on Sundays for the 2019 season and beyond because of the team’s Catholic-based name and affiliation.
The team, named “Saints” because it was awarded to New Orleans on the solemn Catholic celebration of All Saints Day, plays the majority of its games on Sundays, which has been a source of long-standing apprehension for many in the religious community. According to Catholic teaching, Sunday is the Lord’s Day.
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work.”
In other words, if an agreement is made and the team submits a “Sunday waiver” to the NFL, the Saints would not play any games or conduct practices on Sundays, and instead, would schedule games for Mondays or Thursdays only.
In Catholicism, Sunday is observed as the weekly memorial of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and is also a day of rest when Catholics attend church for communal worship, a clear conflict with playing football.
However, team sources speaking on the condition of anonymity say that while many Church officials prefer the team not play on the Lord’s Day due to religious reasons, the letter written by Pope Francis himself reveals the real reason for the request is he’d like to be able to see more games and cannot currently do so because of his jam-packed schedule on Sundays.
The Pope allegedly watched much of the Saints-Jaguars game after thousands of Who Dats commented on his #Saints tweet, sparking his curiosity to check the team out and immediately fell in love. Aside from the team’s religious connotations, the low scoring game certainly helped capture the avid soccer fan‘s heart.
“For many Saints fans, gathering at the Superdome can feel like a religious experience and almost mimics a mass,” said the source. “We sent the Vatican some tickets to Mrs. Benson’s suite for a few games so hopefully they will see it can all coexist. Besides, everyone knows God and the Pope are Saints fan.”
Although it is highly unlikely the Saints would submit such a waiver to the NFL, the request does make an interesting case since New Orleans is one of the most Catholic cities in the United States and the team does have its founding based on Catholic tradition.
“I go to church first thing Sunday morning so I can catch the Saints game, but I do most of my praying when the team is on the field. Me and God get pretty close, especially during tight games. So, if anything, I think playing on Sunday builds spirituality,” said Saints fan Kurt Moses.
While the Saints don’t seem as though they will be agreeing to the Vatican’s wishes, another group may pressure the team to make some big changes.
Saints Alive, an activist group comprised of Catholic Saints led by St. Peter, the church’s first Pope and canonized individual, believe the team’s use of “Saints” can be considered disparaging, and should be changed.
“Those guys put on some cleats, a helmet and a jersey, throw a ball around, and they get to call themselves Saints? I haven’t seen any of them perform miracles to earn that title, except maybe during their Super Bowl season,” said St. Peter, referring to the church’s long process of declaring a person a Saint.
The Canonization process has several phases and requires a candidate to perform at least two miracles through his or her intercession after his or her death.
Although St. Peter died around 64 A.D., he says the time to do the right thing never does.
“The team in New Orleans needs to change its name. Many of us had to become martyrs to earn the right to be called Saints.”
Neither the Saints nor the Vatican responded to Neutral Ground News when asked for comment.