At his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis welcomed some of the Harlem Globetrotters, who were visiting Rome while on tour.
On the sunny Wednesday morning, the Pope paused to speak with the famous basketballers, and even received a lesson on how to balance a spinning ball on his fingertip, to the intense amusement of the crowd.
Pope Francis is a sports lover, and though his first love is soccer, he also has a place in his heart for basketball.
The team gave the Pope a blue Globetrotters jersey with the number 90 and his name, “Pope Francis,” in a frame.
This is not the first time the famous entertainers have met with a pope. In fact, they have a history of attending papal audiences and spending time with the man in white.
In 2000, Pope John Paul II became an “honorary member” of the team, after meeting with the Globetrotters’ owner and five players wearing their trademark red, white, and blue warmup suits.
John Paul, too, received an autographed basketball and his own named-and-numbered jersey, number 75.
As the most-traveled team in basketball history, the Globetrotters have played thousands of exhibition games in 115 countries, though John Paul beat them by a few baskets, having visited 129 countries during his 27-year papacy.
The Globetrotters also met Pope Pius XII in 1951 and 1952, John XXIII in 1959 and 1963, and Paul VI in 1968.
The team is currently visiting Rome as part of their 2015 international tour, which covers Italy, Finland, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.