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Pope jokes he might support Brazil at World Cup after president gives him shirt, ball

02/21/2014, 4:48pm EST
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

Nation's president delivers gifts from soccer legends Pele, Ronaldo.


Pope Francis exchanges gifts with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff during their audience Friday at the Vatican.

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has confronted temptation of an unusual sort.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff gave him a national team jersey signed by Pele and a ball signed by Ronaldo during an audience Friday. Francis joked that with such gifts, he might be encouraged to support Brazil over his native Argentina at the upcoming World Cup.

Rousseff asked at the very least for neutrality, the Vatican said.

Francis, a lifelong fan of the Buenos Aires club San Lorenzo, has amassed an enormous collection of jerseys since his election. Pele signed the newest addition, No. 10: “To Pope Francis with respect and admiration,” while Ronaldo signed the ball “To Pope Francis, a big hug from your friend Ronaldo.”

Rousseff was in town to see Rio’s archbishop formally made a cardinal.

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