Heads up! Spiking in St. Peter’s Square

A basketball game is played in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican in the presence of Pope Pius XII in 1955. (CNS photo/Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Laity)

A basketball game is played in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican in the presence of Pope Pius XII in 1955. (CNS photo/Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Laity)

VATICAN CITY — It’s not very often that St. Peter’s Square is turned into a hoops court or a soccer field. But on rare occasions the world of sports comes to the See of Peter.

Tomorrow, 300 children will be digging, setting and spiking during the first volleyball rally ever to be played in St. Peter’s Square.  

Kids aged eight to 11 will be playing on 16 makeshift courts in the square between 8:30 and 10 a.m. — before Pope Benedict XVI begins his weekly general audience at 10:30.

The special event is to highlight that Italy will be hosting the 2010 Men’s Volleyball World Championship (Japan will host the women’s world championship games).

Organizers said that at the end of the general audience, two children will present the pope with a special game shirt emblazoned with the phrase “Volare alto” or “Soar high,” an official world championship volleyball,  and the Italian team’s uniform shirt.

Children play soccer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican before the weekly audience of Pope Benedict XVI in this Sept. 21, 2005. (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

Children play soccer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican before the weekly audience of Pope Benedict XVI in this Sept. 21, 2005. (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

Perhaps the most unusual game to have been played in St. Peter’s Square was in the 15th century when it hosted a marathon bout of “calcio storico fiorentino,” the Florentine version of nearly rule-less soccer that looks more like rugby and wrestling combined. It’s said Pope Sixtus IV peeked out his studio window every now and then to see how the grueling match, which lasted from mid-morning to dusk, was proceeding.

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