By his own admission, Pope Benedict XVI was never a great athlete, but he seemed happy as he was presented with a soccer ball Wednesday by players in a youth tournament and European soccer officials.
"Dear friends, your presence offers me the opportunity to underline the importance of sport, a discipline which if practiced with respect for the rules becomes a learning instrument and a vehicle for important human and spiritual values," the pope said during his weekly public audience in St. Peter's Square.
Afterward he met with children from 16 nations playing in a tournament here who were accompanied by officials of the European soccer body UEFA and the Italian Soccer Federation, according to the AP.
Before and after the audience, the children kicked soccer balls near the square.
Benedict has written that as a child in Germany he found sports to be a burden to himself and also to his teammates, because he was small and non-athletic.