Pope Francis to Soccer-Mad Youth: Jesus Offers ‘Something More Than the World Cup’

RIO DE JANEIRO (TheBlaze/AP) — Pope Francis spoke the language of Brazil’s soccer-mad kids at World Youth Day, telling them that being a good Catholic is like training to play the game they love.

Only Francis added a twist: Jesus offers them “something more than the World Cup.”

Pope Francis arrives to the stage to accompany pilgrims before a night vigil at the Copacabana beachfront in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, July 27, 2013. Two million people packed the famous beach. (Credit: AP)

The pope’s comment Saturday could have gone over poorly in the land of Pele that will host the World Cup in 2014, as Francis is from Argentina, which is Brazil’s nemesis on the field.

But the crowd on Copacabana beach cheered with delight.

Catholic pilgrims attending World Youth Day (WYD) take part in a prayer vigil headed by Pope Francis, at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro on July 27, 2013. (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Francis is a lifelong fan of the Buenos Aires club San Lorenzo and has been a member (ID No. 88235) since 2008.

Earlier in the week Pope Francis urged young Catholics to make a “mess” in their dioceses and break out of their spiritual cages.

Francis’ exhortation during a special meeting with Argentine faithful on Thursday won him acclaim as a renegade leader of the world’s biggest church.

Francis himself didn’t specify what to do, but he has displayed his own mold-breaking ways throughout this week’s visit to Rio de Janeiro and rural Sao Paulo state, his first overseas trip as pope.

“I want to see the church get closer to the people,” he told them. “I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures, because these need to get out.”

His final message Thursday: “Don’t forget: make trouble.”