Pope Francis meets Argentinean soccer champions at Vatican
VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Francis celebrated his beloved San Lorenzo's victory in the Argentine soccer championship Wednesday, hoisting a replica of the team's trophy for all to see.
A small group of team managers and players met with Francis on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica at the end of his Wednesday general audience. The group presented him with the replica of the trophy and a red and blue team jersey with "Francisco Campeon," Francis Champion, written on the back. A clearly pleased Francis raised the trophy.
San Lorenzo, of which then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was a registered fan, clinched the Argentine championship Sunday.
Wednesday was Francis' last general audience for 2013, during which the pope received birthday wishes (he turned 77 on Tuesday) and someone even offered him a sip of mate, the traditional Argentine tea.
The Vatican also released year-end statistics on Francis' papacy, saying at least 1,548,500 tickets had been distributed over the course of Francis' 30 audiences in his first nine months in office. The actual number of people who attended is far higher, since anyone can go to an audience and the Vatican now shuts down the main boulevard leading to St. Peter's Square to accommodate the throngs each Wednesday.
For comparison's sake, 810,000 tickets were distributed in Benedict XVI's first year in 2005, during which he held 32 audiences after his April 19 election. In 2005, the Vatican said 2.85 million people had participated in Benedict's public events that first year, which included all his Masses, Sunday blessings and World Youth Day events in Cologne, Germany.
The Vatican didn't release such complete statistics on Wednesday for Francis. The Holy See is on record, though, as reporting that Francis drew 3.7 million people alone to his concluding World Youth Day Mass in Rio de Janeiro in July, though statisticians put the actual figure at less than half that.