Vatican City: Pope Francis is hoping the World Cup, which kicks off in Brazil later on Thursday, will be played in a spirit of fraternity and fair play, and can overcome any form of racism or intolerance.
In a video message in Portuguese to fans and organisers in Brazil, the Argentine pope said that sport was not only a form of entertainment but above all a means to promote a more just, fraternal and peaceful society.
"My hope is that, besides being a sporting feast, the World Cup can become a feast of solidarity among peoples," he said in the message.
"Sport is a school of peace. It teaches us to build peace."
Francis said sport should "overcome individualism, egoism, all forms of racism, intolerance and exploitation of the human person."
As archbishop of Buenos Aires, the pontiff was a keen supporter of the San Lorenzo soccer club.
The pope is an honorary member of the club nicknamed the Saints of Boedo for the barrio where they were founded by a group of young men that included a priest in 1908.