VATICAN CITY (AP) – Saying "even the pope has a family," Pope Francis expressed thanks on Wednesday for the prayers and condolences he has received following the death of his nephew's wife and their two young boys in a car crash in the pontiff's native Argentina.
Francis listened as priests expressed condolences in several languages during his weekly public audience at the Vatican.
"I thank you for your condolences for what happened in my family," Francis said. "Even the pope has a family."
The 77-year-old pontiff then went on: "We were five siblings. I have 16 nephews and nieces and one of these nephews had a car accident and lost his wife and two little ones and is in critical condition. I thank you very much for your condolences and prayers."
The pope looked pensive as he stood in front of a Vatican auditorium two days after he returned from a six-day trip to South Korea. But Francis, a passionate fan of the San Lorenzo soccer team, brightened when he greeted members of the Buenos Aires squad, which won the Copa Libertadores, South America's prestigious soccer trophy.
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"I greet the San Lorenzo champions," Francis said, smiling broadly. The club is "part of my cultural identity."
He shook hands with team members, who brought along the trophy, and grinned when he was given a red-and-blue team jersey and posed for photos with them.
The pope's love for soccer is well documented and he even believes the sport can be used in bringing diplomacy around the world. Francis plans to host a celebrity soccer match on September 1 in Rome to promote a diplomatic resolution to the ongoing crisis in the Gaza Strip with all-star players like F.C. Barcelona's Lionel Messi and soccer legend Diego Maradona.