Pope Francis has organized a soccer match on Sept. 1 to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports.
The exhibition game will be played at the Olympic Stadium in Rome with "all-star players," including Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona. The JTA reports that Francis called both Messi and Maradona - fellow Argentines - personally to ask them to “play for the peace between Israel and Palestine.”
Israel is currently engaged in hostilities with Hamas, a militant group that runs the Gaza Strip. Through Aug. 8, according to The New York Times, 1,881 Palestinians and 67 Israelis had died in the fighting. Time.com has further coverage of the conflict, which began July 8.
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On his Facebook page, Maradona posted, "It is an honour to be invited by Pope #Francis, to participate in the Interreligious Match for Peace, on September 1st, at the Olimpic Stadium of Rome."
The match is being hosted by the Pupi Foundation and the Pontifical Academy for Social Science. The JTA report notes that players from a number of countries around the world will participate, including Israel's Yossi Benayoun.
- Sarah Barshop