Rorate Caeli

The power of the cassock at all times: "My brother, pass me the ball!"

Agence France Presse's photographer Fabrice Coffrini wanted some special football/soccer images now that the quadrennial world tournament of the sport is at hand. He found them in Écône (Riddes, Valais, Switzerland), at the International Seminary of Saint Pius X.

RIDDES (Switzerland), June 3, 2014 [AFP] - The Society of Saint Pius X is a traditionalist Catholic society founded by Abp. Marcel Lefebvre. They are known above all for their ultra-conservative positions and their disagreements with the Vatican. They are less known for their football talents.

Every Sunday, the priests and future priests of the Society seminary in Écône, Switzerland, rest at the end of an intense week of studies and prayer. Some go hiking, others play basketball, still others play football. They always practice their sporting activities in cassock because, for traditionalists, a priest must keep his distinctive habit in all life circumstances in order to show that, "he lives in the world without being of the world"... But cleats are tolerated.

It has been several years that I wanted to photograph them. As the football World Cup approaches, it was the ideal moment. After having easily obtained the agreement of the seminary, I went to the Valais to watch the Sunday match at Riddes, the neighboring village to Écône.

The field is located below an overpass. Many drivers who pass by honk at the sight of the unusual display of these priests in cassocks running after a ball. But, other than them, there is no public. There is also no referee (other than God, naturally).

The match is very physical, the players tackle and collide as in any other football match. The only difference, other than the outfit, is the language. No name-calling, no cursing, no altercation other than at offsides or fouls. The players use the vous [formal 2nd person] and remain very polite amongst themselves: "My brother, pass me [passez-moi] the ball!"

At halftime, I would like to take a posed picture of all seminarians while raising their arms enthusiastically, as a regular team. But they refused. Even on a soccer field, the cassock compels a demeanor...

[Image above by Fabrice Coffrini for AFP hosted at original website. The complete set of images available at the original post, available in French here.]