An avid fan, Pope Francis said that fellow Argentinian and soccer star Lionel Messi is very good, but “not God.”

Lionel Messi, a native of the the Holy Father’s Argentina, is a professional soccer player for FC Barcelona, regarded my many as the greatest of all time.

In an interview for the show Salvados broadcast on the Spanish TV network La Sexta, Pope Francis was asked by host Jordi √Čvole if it is “sacrilege to say that Messi is God.”

A lifelong soccer fan, the Holy Father said it “is a joy to watch Messi play,” but declared definitively that that sports superstar is “not God.”

“In theory it is sacrilege. You can’t say it and I don’t believe it. Of course, he brings happiness, but he isn’t God.”

Pope Francis said the comparison by fans are “expressions of the people: he is a ‘god’ with the ball on the court, did you see?”

“People say ‘God’ like they say ‘I adore you.’ Adoring is only for God. Only worship God.”

In 2013, Pope Francis met with Lionel Messi and other members of the Argentinian national team. The Holy Father called for them and other soccer players to accept the “responsibility” that comes with being “very popular” as “people follow you, not just on the field but also off it.” Messi¬† took Pope Francis’ call to heart, saying

“Respect for others and the opponent is the basis of everything, on the pitch as in life. We footballers, for our part, can spread the Pope’s message and satisfy his request by always playing a beautiful game.”

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