Brendan Rodgers presented Pope Francis with a signed Celtic shirt during a visit to the Vatican as the squad were granted an audience with the pontiff following their Champions League match against Lazio in Rome.
Two late Ciro Immobile goals handed Lazio a 2-0 victory on Tuesday evening to leave Celtic rooted to the bottom of Group E with just one point but 24 hours later, the Bhoys were welcomed to the Vatican.
Hoops boss Rodgers gave the Pope a Celtic jersey signed by the squad and emblazoned with ‘Francis’ on the back, while the club also gifted him a Celtic cross.
Pope Francis commiserated with the team over their defeat but urged them to focus on the bigger things in life.
He said: “I am pleased to welcome you here to the Vatican, during your stay in Rome following your Uefa Champions League match with Lazio yesterday evening.
“While it is true that winning rather than losing a match is always preferred, it is not the most important aspect. More vital is the example you give when winning or losing, both on and off the field. An example that embodies the virtues of courage, perseverance, generosity and respect for the God-given dignity of others.
“Indeed, Celtic Football Club was founded in 1887 with the specific goal of alleviating poverty in the city of Glasgow. This was truly a charitable undertaking for the sake of the most needy of our brothers and sisters.”
Rodgers was joined on the visit by Callum McGregor, Liam Scales, Stephen Welsh, Mikey Johnston, Anthony Ralston, Paulo Bernardo and Cameron Carter-Vickers, as well as Celtic chairman Peter Lawwell.
Pope Francis has previously met football figures such as Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, while one of his predecessors – John Paul II – famously welcomed the Ireland men’s squad when they played their first World Cup in Italy in 1990.
The pontiff also urged the squad to retain their “amateur spirit” even amid the huge money swirling around the sport in the modern day.
He added: “In sport, the most beautiful thing is gratuitousness, that beauty of playing together. Please, never lose the amateur spirit. This is the beautiful thing: the amateur spirit, where sport is for sport. This means a great deal.