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Pope Francis sends out Super Bowl message of unity

Even the Vatican has got in on the Super Bowl hysteria. Pope Francis delivered a message using one of America's largest sporting events as an example of the unifying potential of sports.

Count Pope Francis as a fan of the US National Football League (NFL).

The Argentine pope released a video shortly before the airing of Sunday's Super Bowl, the annual American football championship game that serves as the culmination of the professional sport's regular season, in which he touted the "highly symbolic" nature of major sporting events.

Such tournaments show "that it is possible to build a culture of encounter and a world of peace," the pope said in the video, which was published on Twitter by the Vatican's press office.

"By participating in sport, we are able to go beyond our own self-interest - and in a healthy way - we learn to sacrifice, to grow in fidelity and respect the rules," Francis said.

While fans hope their team will pound the other opposing side into the ground, Francis ended his video with a message that "this Super Bowl be a sign of peace, friendship and solidarity to the world."

The pope has in the past spoken about the unifying potential of sports, releasing similar messages to coincide with the Olympics and the World Cup.

The pontiff did not say whether he'd be cheering - or praying - for the New England Patriots or the Atlanta Falcons.

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