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Sun shines on the latest ecumenical cricket innings in Rome 

27 October 2017

Last week, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI returned to Rome, the scene of their defeat in 2015 at the hands of a Vatican team. Paul Handley went with them

Joseph Fox

Arm in arm: the two teams pose for photographs before the game

Arm in arm: the two teams pose for photographs before the game

THE theologians have been missing a trick. High-level ecumenical discussions have their place, but there is one element that breaks down barriers between Churches faster than anything else: fun.

The visit to Rome last week by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI, a cricket team made up of English clergy and ordinands, happened to coincide with the celebrations of 50 years of Methodist-Roman Catholic talks, which have run in parallel with the ARCIC discussions.

The celebrations in Rome, blessed by the Pope, pointed to the progress that had been made. None the less, it is hard to imagine unity talks progressing so slowly had sport been involved from the beginning. Pope Francis reminded the members of the International Catholic-Methodist Commission about the Spirit of Pentecost: “We need to remain together, like the disciples awaiting the Spirit, and as brothers and sisters on a shared journey.”

This was the fourth year running when the two teams have walked together, and, despite changes in membership, friendships have blossomed to the extent that the teams now greet each other with the banter normally reserved for teammates.

They first met last week on the rooftop terrace of the residence of the UK Ambassador to the Holy See, Sally Axworthy, who, like her predecessor, has lent diplomatic weight to the Anglican tour (and who now owns a cricket ball signed by Archbishop Welby).

Another host was the former Archbishop of Burundi, the Most Revd Bernard Ntahoturi, who was due to be inaugurated as the new director of the Anglican Centre in Rome yesterday, after the Church Times went to press.

Chris LionRoman centurion: the Revd Chris Kennedy strikes outTheir involvement placed the match in the context of the increasingly warm relationship between Canterbury and Rome under the present Pope. Since the cricket began four years ago, there has been an RC eucharist in Canterbury Cathedral, an Anglican evensong in St Peter’s, a visit by the Pope to All Saints’ Anglican Church in Rome, the lending of St Gregory the Great’s crozier for display during the 2016 Primates’ Meeting, high-level RC participation in the 50th-anniversary celebrations of the Anglican Centre, and a commissioning service conducted jointly by the Pope and Archbishop Welby, among other ventures and gestures.

The cricket cannot take credit for these, of course, although it was indirectly responsible for at least two of them. But it contributes a new and unpredictable element to the general dialogue.

Church TimesTrophies: two bats in the St Peter’s Club trophy room, signed by Archbishop Welby and Pope FrancisComplete unity is still a few overs away, however. The manager of the St Peter’s side, Fr Eamonn O’Higgins LC, took the Anglican side on a visit to Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer palace in the hills outside Rome, now open to the public since Pope Francis declined to use it. While there, he spoke movingly of the wound he felt, caused by the disunity of the two Churches — and made more painful as friendships had grown.

Just as difficult, in its way, was the pleasure felt, on Sunday morning, when, after several days in male RC company, members of the Archbishop’s team attended a eucharist at All Saints’, at which the Assistant Chaplain, the Revd Dana English, presided.

But if the dialogue between the Anglicans and the Roman Catholics can be likened to a cricket match, there are occasions that resemble the moment when someone runs on to the pitch with a jug of cold squash. On the evening of the match, the Anglicans joined members of Fr Eamonn’s seminary, Maria Mater Ecclesiae, for vespers, with exposition, and a meal, with beer.

Afterwards, a bat signed by Archbishop Welby was presented to the St Peter’s team, to be placed on their trophy shelf alongside one signed by Pope Francis.


Kennedy century is the crown on Anglican win

ON THURSDAY, in a warm-up match against members of the resident Capannelle Cricket Club, Chris Kennedy was out first ball. Fortunately, the chase after Capannelle’s total of 143 was taken up by Jez Barnes and Chris Lee, and they overtook the home team’s score with two overs to spare. (A notable moment was when the club’s 71-year-old founder, Alfonso Jayarata, caught Tom Murray in the slips with a full-length dive.)

Had Kennedy’s form not improved, the match against the Vatican side might have been very different. As it was, he scored a century, and the Anglicans presented their opponents with an unassailable total of 176 for 3. On a ground with an Astro wicket, and an outfield where leafy ground-cover predominates, many T20 games are won with 140 runs or fewer. In the end, St Peter’s made a commendable 137 for 8, but the pressure of the chase showed in five run-outs along the way.

The game took place in bright sunshine, but a heavy dew meant that winning the toss and choosing to bat put the Archbishop’s team at an advantage from the start.

That said, they began slowly, and the loss of Sam Rylands, caught by Davidson Jestus for nought in the second over raised RC spirits. After six overs, the Anglicans had scored only 23 runs, kept in check by the Vatican’s opening bowlers Jose and Jomcy.

Joseph FoxSpectators: the Procurator General of the Missionary Society of St Columban, Fr Robert McCulloch SSC, and Fr Sameer Advani LCBut, by then, Kennedy and his partner Chris Lion, the captain, were beginning to look comfortable. A change of bowler, bringing in Jinse Meppurathu and Paulson Antony, allowed Kennedy in particular to open up. Meppurathu contributed three wides in his first over, Antony added another, but the batsmen did the damage, and, by the eighth over, the Anglicans had doubled their score.

From then on, a combination of well-hit fours and smartly taken twos pushed the score on at the same rate. A tightly bowled over from Jestus interrupted the flow, but only momentarily, and the 100 came up in the 13th over.

Lion went at last in the 16th over, caught by Sinoj Neelankavil off Jestus, ending a 131-run partnership, but his more dangerous partner stayed at the crease to the end, finishing on 103 not out. By the end, he had scored 13 fours and two sixes.

Chris Lee joined him for the last four overs, and added 11 runs to the total, including a long six that bounced off the pavilion roof into the perimeter road, before he was bowled by Jose Ettolil Mathew on the last ball of the innings. There were also 18 wides and 3 leg-byes.

The team were quick to express sympathy for Pat Allerton, who had waited out both games as next to bat, eager to emulate Paul Alderton, who had made such an impact in previous years.

The best bowling figures belonged to Jose Ettolil Mathew, who, in four overs, took two wickets for 21 runs.

St Peter’s, undaunted, made a solid beginning. Lee bowled the tightest over of the game at the start, allowing the openers Elliott Wright and Neelankavil just one run.

Chris LionCup-holders: the winning teamAli Marshall was more generous, and, by the end of the sixth over, the Roman Catholics were ahead, on 37 for no wicket, having survived a close shout in the third over when a sharp throw from the boundary saw Neelankavil tumbling to safety.

But whereas the Anglicans had accelerated in the middle overs, the second-string bowlers kept Wright and Neelankavil in check. Their total of wides was even higher than that of St Peter’s: 23, plus 3 leg-byes and a no-ball; but, when the ball was good, it was very good, and a carefully placed field meant that the Vatican side managed singles where the Anglicans had taken twos.

The twelfth over saw the first of the run-outs. Neelankavil was stranded after a swift throw in by Andy Watkins. His total of 30 had included 4 fours. In came Shehan Fernando, but six balls later he was out for one run, stumped by Tom Murray, the wicketkeeper.

The next over it was Wright’s turn, the victim of an over-ambitious call by his new partner Kiran Markose. Wright was the Vatican’s top scorer on 33. Markose, a left-hander, looked useful, and scored the only six of the Vatican innings. He and his new partner Connor Hey averaged ten an over for the rest of the game, but by then the game was out of reach.

The last two overs were a scramble: Hey was slow off his crease, and was run out for 16, once again Murray doing the honours. He was replaced by Paulson Antony. At the end of the over, Murray caught Markose off Watkins.

Church TimesLifted high: Chris Lion, the Anglican captain, receives the Ut Unum Sint Cup from the British Ambassador to the Holy See, Sally AxworthyAt the start of the last over, Antony was clean bowled by Rylands. Jestus, next in, was caught by Murray, bowled Rylands; and Jinse Meppurathu, who followed him, was the victim of another run out. In the midst of all this, the captain, Kapila Manjula Jayasekara, scored two quick fours and a single, taking their final total to 137 for 8.

Lee’s were the best bowling figures: he bowled three overs, giving away nine runs for no wickets.

The Ut Unum Sint cup (“That They Be One”) was thus retained by the Anglicans, presented by Ms Axworthy wearing an Archbishop’s XI cap (although she had also been spotted wearing a St Peter’s sun hat).


The visit of the Archbishop’s XI to Rome was made possible by generous support from Archbishop Welby, the Bishop of Shrewsbury, and Ecclesiastical Insurance, as well as the organisational skills of Hannah Kennedy, and the hospitality of Fr Eamonn O’Higgins, Fr Sameer Advani, the UK Ambassador to the Holy See, Capannelle Cricket Club, and the Anglican Centre. The Church Times helped to organise the trip.





Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI

1. Chris Lion b. Davidson Jestus c. Sinoj Neelankavil 41

2. Sam Rylands b. Jose Ettolil Mathew c. Davidson Jestus 0

3. Chris Kennedy not out 103

4. Chris Lee b. Jose Ettolil Mathew 11

Extras 21

176 for 3


Jomcy Mathew 4-0-0-23, Jose Ettolil Mathew 4-0-2-21, Jinse Meppurathu 3-0-0-27, Paulson Antony 2-0-0-13, Kapila Manjula Jayasekara 3-0-0-40, Davidson Jestus 3-0-1-35.

Did not bat: Pat Allerton, Rob Glenny, Andy Watkins, Jez Barnes, Ali Marshall, Andy Cranston, Tom Murray.


Vatican XI

1. Sinoj Neelankavil run out 30

2. Elliott Wright run out 33

3. Shehan Fernando run out 1

4. Kiran Markose b. Andy Watkins c. Tom Murray 19

5. Connor Hey run out 16

6. Paulson Antony b. Sam Rylands 0

7. Kapila Manjula Jayasekara not out 9

8. Davidson Jestus b. Sam Rylands c. Tom Murray 2

9. Jinse Meppurathu run out 0

Extras 27

137 for 8


Chris Lee 3-0-0-9, Ali Marshall 3-0-0-28, Rob Glenny 3-0-0-20, Jez Barnes 2-0-0-12, Andy Cranston 3-0-0-20, Pat Allerton 2-0-0-10, Andy Watkins 2-0-1-16, Sam Rylands 2-0-2-20


did not bat: Jomcy Mathew, Jose Ettolil Mathew


Fall of wickets: 73, 75, 80, 126, 126, 128, 137

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