Francis vs. Benedict: Which Pope Is More Soccer?

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Considering that it's been 600 years since the the last time the world has had two living Popes, what are the odds that we could have two living Popes and have their two home countries face off in the World Cup Final? Answer: the odds are very low. But it happened! 

Unfortunately, in a heartbreaking turn of events, the Vatican has released a statement saying Pope Francis and ex-Pope Benedict XVI will likely not be watching the World Cup final together, avoiding an Papal livingroom showdown as Argentina and Germany face off. 

Though it’s disappointing they probably won’t be taking advantage of this almost unrepeatable set of circumstances, we’ll find a way to get over it. It does raise another question, though: Which of our popes really cares the most about his beloved sport? Benedict and Francis are both on record as being football fans, as well as thinking the sport has some major residual benefits in the spiritual growth department. In honor of their faux-rivalry in the finals, let’s take a look at who has the greater history with The Beautiful Game.

Favorite Team


BENEDICT: He supports FC Bayern Munich. This pope is no fair-weather World Cup fan – he’s here for the long haul.

Recommended Reading

FRANCIS: Then again, Pope Francis loves a club, too – San Lorenzo – and he has the jersey to prove it. He also held their trophy after the Argentine championship, which he probably excitedly journaled about later.

Respect for the Game


BENEDICT: The retired pope has said that soccer can be “a tool for the teaching of life's ethical and spiritual values” for young people. (This was before he saw the crying boy at the Brazil-Germany match. No word yet on whether he's reevaluated since.)

FRANCIS: Whereas Benedict likes to talk about soccer in high-minded terms, Francis basically just wants to meet his heroes. Like Messi! He looks so happy there. Even when Benedict is getting jerseys or touching trophies, he never looks quite as thrilled. 

Spiritual Significance

BENEDICT: In “Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for everyday of the year,” a work he produced while still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict called soccer “‘a global event,’ that irrespective of boundaries, links humanity around the world in one and the same state of tension: in its hopes, its fears, its emotions and joys.” Which sounds like he likes it?

FRANCIS: When it comes down to it, Francis is just as capable of the philosophical talk behind soccer as Benedict is. In a video message released ahead of the World Cup, Pope Francis urged players to “overcome individualism, selfishness, all forms of racism, intolerance and manipulation of people.”


Verdict: FRANCIS

While we appreciate that Pope Benedict XVI enjoys soccer, we don’t quite feel his passion for the sport matches that of his successor. He’s the casual fan to Pope Francis’ fanboy – and watching our current pope nerd out is just adorable.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.