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Head doctor for Madrid soccer team calls Pope Francis a ‘very stubborn patient’

November 23, 2022 Catholic News Agency 1
Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square, Sept. 28, 2022 / Pablo Esparza / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 23, 2022 / 07:34 am (CNA).

The Vatican has recruited the head doctor of a Madrid soccer team among a team of specialists to help treat Pope Francis’ knee problem.

José María Villalón, a sports medicine specialist and the head doctor of the Atlético de Madrid soccer team, described the pope as a “very stubborn patient” in a radio interview this week.

The doctor said that Pope Francis is “a very nice and very stubborn patient in the sense that there are surgical procedures that he does not want. We have to offer him more conservative treatments so that he will agree to them.”

Speaking in an interview with COPE, the Spanish bishops’ conference radio station, on November 20, Villalón said that the pope’s issue with his knee had affected some of his other joints as well.

“Sometimes it starts with a joint with osteoarthritis and other joints deteriorate because they are overloaded,” he said. “We are trying to make sure that this does not advance and that things get better.”

Villalón said that he was contacted by both the Apostolic Nunciature in Spain and the Spanish bishops’ conference, who “asked a group of specialists if we could help the pope.”

Pope Francis, who turns 86 next month, has alternated between using a wheelchair and a walking cane since May. 

Earlier this month, the pope told journalists that he was in “a lot of pain” on a flight to Bahrain. Pope Francis has previously canceled public appearances and trips due to his knee trouble, including a scheduled trip to Africa in July.

Villalón said that at first he was “nervous” during his first communication with the pope, but that they bonded because “he likes soccer.” 

In particular, the pope expressed his fondness for Atlético de Madrid’s striker, Ángel Correa, an Argentine soccer player who used to play for the San Lorenzo soccer club in Buenos Aires.

Correa recently joined Argentina’s national soccer team at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, where Argentina suffered a shocking defeat in a game against Saudi Arabia on Nov. 22.

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Real Madrid offers European Cup to the Virgin of Almudena

May 31, 2022 Catholic News Agency 1
Real Madrid’s Brazilian defender Marcelo holds their trophy during the club’s celebration of their 14th European Cup at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 29, 2022, a day after beating Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League final in Paris. – Real Madrid claimed a 14th European Cup as Vinicius Junior’s goal saw them beat Liverpool 1-0 in the Champions League final at the Stade de France amid chaotic scenes yesterday. / Oscar del Pozo/AFP via Getty Images.

Lima, Peru, May 31, 2022 / 12:25 pm (CNA).

Real Madrid CF returned Sunday to Spain after winning the EUFA Champions League final, and offered the Virgin of Almudena both this trophy and that it won April 30 by winning the Spanish football league.

Real Madrid won the May 28 Champions League Fiinal 1-0 against Liverpool F.C. The match was played in Paris and the winning goal was scored by Vinicius Junior in the 59th minute. This is the 14th time that Real Madrid has won the European football competition.

The team, which was received by tens of thousands of fans in the streets of the Spanish capital May 29, went to Almudena Cathedral in the evening and was received by Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid.

It is not the first time that Real Madrid has offered the Champions League trophy to Our Lady.

During the visit, Cardinal Osoro greeted the players “with affection and joy”, saying that “it is stimulating to share a path with others, to support each other in the search for success.”

As reported by the Archdiocese of Madrid, the cardinal thanked them for taking the name of the Spanish capital to as many corners as did Saint Isidore the Farmer, “a simple man with presences on all continents,” to whom a Holy Year is being dedicated in the Archdiocese of Madrid.

During the brief ceremony, Real Madrid’s public relations director, former footballer Emilio Butragueño, read some petitions, one of which asked that those present experience “the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary.”

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Pope Francis fields Vatican soccer team in friendly match against Roma minority

November 11, 2021 Catholic News Agency 0
Pope Francis holds a soccer ball in St. Peter’s Square during the Wednesday general audience on Aug. 26, 2015. L’Osservatore Romano. / null

Vatican City, Nov 11, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis will field a soccer team from the Vatican in a friendly match against a team of Roma people later this month.

The soccer match, which is intended to counter racism and discrimination, will be played on Nov. 21, in the town of Formello, 45 minutes north of Italy’s capital.

The match will also raise funds for a Roma inclusion project organized by the Diocese of Rome.

The pope’s team has been named “Fratelli Tutti,” after his 2020 encyclical, and includes members of the Swiss Guard, Vatican employees and their children, priests working in the Roman Curia, three young immigrants, and a young man with Down syndrome.

The team of the Roma (or Romani) minority has been assembled by the World Roma Organization, which has its headquarters in Zagreb, Croatia, and runs inclusive sporting events with special attention to minorities and people with disabilities.

The day before the match, Nov. 20, Pope Francis will meet both teams at the Vatican.

According to recent estimates by police, just over 4,000 Romani people live in Italy’s capital city, in both authorized and illegal camps. This is a 35-40% decrease from 2017, the police said, adding that this shows that attempts to integrate the ethnic minority into wider Italian society are working.

The Nov. 21 soccer match, organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture, is an initiative of Pope Francis, who has often emphasized the benefits of sports for enriching people’s lives.

In a Feb. 19 meeting with an Italian soccer team, the pope said that “sports, and also soccer, are a path of life, of maturity, and of holiness.”

Pope Francis also met with impoverished Roma people when he visited a ghetto during his trip to Slovakia in September.

During the Sept. 14 meeting, he told the Roma people that the Catholic Church is their home and they should never “worry about whether you will be at home there.”

“Nobody ought ever to keep you or anyone else away from the Church,” the pope emphasized.

The gathering took place in the Luník IX district of the Slovakian city of Košice, where an estimated 7,500 Roma people live in buildings built to hold just 2,500.

In his address, Pope Francis said: “Dear brothers and sisters, all too often you have been the object of prejudice and harsh judgments, discriminatory stereotypes, defamatory words and gestures. As a result, we are all poorer, poorer in humanity.”

“Restoring dignity means passing from prejudice to dialogue, from introspection to integration,” he continued, explaining that this can be carried out through concern, pastoral care, patience, and concrete efforts.”

“All these things will bear fruit,” he underlined. “Not immediately, but in due time those fruits will be seen.”

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