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‘St George ready to rise’ to St Peter’s cricket challenge

25 October 2013

First appearance: Heston Groenewald scored 141, with eight sixes, in his début innings for Southwark, on Monday of last week RICHARD SEWELL

First appearance: Heston Groenewald scored 141, with eight sixes, in his début innings for Southwark, on Monday of last week RICHARD SEWELL

THE Church of England this week received what is probably the most unusual challenge from the Roman Catholic Church since the Reformation, when the Vatican's new St Peter's Cricket Club challenged the Church of England to a cricket match at Lord's.

And the cricketing Bishop of Shrewsbury, the Rt Revd Mark Rylands, said that the Church of England would be "up for it".

"We don't have a national team, but we have several diocesan teams, and would have no problem putting a good team together to play a Vatican XI," he said on Wednesday. "Perhaps we ought to let the London team [play the match], because they won the last Church Times cup. They're probably the strongest of the diocesan teams, with four or five good players."

But he did not rule out the possibility of drawing on the best of the diocesan teams - including the Revd Jez Barnes, from London, and the Revd Steve Gray, from Chichester - for a national Church of England XI. "If they're going to be called St Peter's, I reckon we ought to be called St George's."

A member of the Vatican XI, Fr Theodore Mascarenhas, told the news agency Reuters: "We hope to have ecumenical dialogue through cricket, and play a Church of England side by September."

Bishop Mark Rylands joked: "We'll keep the sledging to a minimum, and I'm sure we won't need to bring in the Methodists as neutral umpires.

Vatican insiders suggested that Pope Francis was more of a football fan than a cricket fan, but was likely to welcome the initiative.

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