Pope Benedict XVI and the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) sent out clear messages against racism in football ahead of the Italy-Germany friendly game played at the Artemio Franchi stadium in Florence last night.
The players from the two national teams entered the pitch alongside children wearing a shirt bearing the words 'European Union against Racism' - both in Italian and German. Just ahead of kick-off, the Archbishop of Florence, Claudio Magnago, read a message from Benedict XVI in support of solidarity and against racial intolerance.
"His Holiness offers cordial greetings and good wishes to the authorities, organisers, directors, athletes and everyone who will watch the match at the Franchi stadium," it said. "His Holiness expresses his appreciation for all the initiatives against racial discrimination promoted in order to strengthen the important educational function of sport in supporting solidarity and peace. His Holiness also encourages the common efforts for the promotion of love towards patient dialogue and mutual respect in every field of society. God bless every good purpose and project."
A number of other positive initiatives were taken to mark the Italy-Germany friendly. The FIGC, in co-operation with the German Consulate in Florence, organised a match between children of various nationalities in Florence's Piazza Santa Croce, while a delegation from the Italy squad visited young patients at the Mayer hospital in the city.
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