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Pope Francis promoting Mideast peace with all-star soccer match

(JTA) — Pope Francis has organized an exhibition soccer match with all-star players to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

The “match for the peace” will take place Sept. 1 at the Olympic Stadium in Rome.

Among the top players, active and retired, scheduled to participate are Argentine greats Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi. Maradona told Argentine media that the pope called him personally and asked him “to play for the peace between Israel and Palestine.” Francis also called Messi to request his participation.

Yossi Benayoun, an Israeli, also will participate, as will players from Russia, Cameroon, Italy, France and Brazil.

The match will be hosted by the Pupi Foundation, a charity founded by the Argentine soccer player Javier “Pupi” Zanetti, as well as the Pontifical Academy for Social Science.

In May, Francis hosted then-Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for a prayer summit at the Vatican.

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