by our Rome correspondent SOCCER fan Pope John Paul Il has privately expressed his desire to be present in Rome's Olympic Stadium for the World Cup Final in July, according to reports.
His presence in the stadium is not officially programmed but he is expected to attend a special World Cup event organised for fans and players in Rome basilicas where artistic representations of the life of Christ will be on show.
The Italian church is organising a series of services, many based on the theme of non violence in sport, for football supporters.
In Sardinia, the holiday island set to host English, Irish and Dutch teams and their fans, local bishops are organising events designed to forge friendships between the visitors and locals, who are concerned For security both in and outside the stadium.
Clergy in the 12 match venue cities will arrange guided tours of churches and masses in various languages.
Church authorities in Palermo, Sicily, will hold an ecumenical service to which the Moslem Egyptian team and supporters will be invited.
The church is also preparing to decorate the streets of the 12 cities with banners and posters bearing its invitation to pray that the World Cup be "a lime for fraternity'.
This message will also be broadcast on television and radio and echoes John Paul's own comments two months ago when he received football officials in a special audience.