Pope Francis. Pictures: Getty Images
Italian Cup finalists Lazio and Roma have met Pope Francis during his traditional Wednesday meeting with believers in the Vatican's Saint Peter's Square, local media reported.
The two Rome sides are to meet Sunday at the Stadio Olimpico in a match that will not only determine the cup winner, but also allocate the final Italian Europa League place.
Lazio's French striker Louis Saha and Roma captain Francesco Totti gave the Pope jerseys from their teams, carrying his name above the number 1.
"I had the impression of meeting a simple person, just like everybody," Totti said. "He transmitted me confidence and humanity.
"The pontiff put everyone at ease. Giving him the Giallorossi jersey was a unique experience."
Lazio president Claudio Lotito said that meeting the Pope alongside Roma in a public event, rather than in private audience, was a way to "signal modesty and send a message of relaxation and respect for the opponents.
"It is a way of stressing Christian values that Lazio believe in and acknowledge."
Safety measures are being strengthened in Rome before a city derby that often in the past was marred by fan violence.
James Pallotta, the president of Roma, gave the Pope a jersey of Boston Celtics, the basketball team from his native US town.
"I come from a Catholic family and meeting the pontiff was one of the most emotional experiences in my life," Pallotta said.
Pope Francis also received from Maurizio Beretta, the president of the Lega Serie A, a football and a miniature of the trophy being awarded Sunday.Author: Alberto Cagliano