Pope Francis has given his blessing to a women's football team at the Vatican.
Vatican women's football team cancels debut match after pro-choice protest
The Vatican women's football team abandoned their first friendly international match after members of the opposing team demonstrated against the Catholic Church's opposition to abortion and gay rights.
Several of the players and supporters from Austrian team FC Mariahilf lifted their jerseys to expose diagrams of female reproductive organs and slogans such as "My body, my rule".
The Vatican team made up of female staff plus wives and daughters of men working at the Holy See, walked off the pitch as the Vatican anthem was played before the umpire abandoned the match before the whistle was even blown.
"The game was called off because we are here for the sport, and not for political or other messages", Danilo Zennaro, a representative of the Vatican sports association, told public broadcaster ORF.
The Pope made headlines last month when he compared having an abortion to "hiring a hitman".
Fußballerinnen des FC Wien-Mariahilf zeigen vor dem Spiel gegen den FC Vatikan Symbole für das Abtreibungsrecht und Regenbogen. Eine Spielerin zum ORF: "Der Vatikan vertritt Werte, die gegen unsere Selbstbestimmung gehen. Das wollen wir nicht unkommentiert unterstützen.“ pic.twitter.com/sOQKCQLNzL— Michael Bonvalot (@MichaelBonvalot) June 22, 2019
A day before the match, the pontiff highlighted the Church's stance on abortion and told an international association of Catholic doctors that they were called to "respect the gift of life from its beginning to its end".
The Vatican team made its debut in May and lost 10-0 to AS Roma's female youth team.
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