Soccer-loving pope cheers Messi, other players (The Associated Press)

From left, Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain, Federico Fernandez and Lionel Messi sit on the pitch during a training session at the Rome Olympic stadium, Monday, Aug.12, 2013. Argentina will play Italy in a friendly match scheduled for Wednesday, Aug.14. Both teams players and staff members will be received by Pope Francis in a private audience at the Vatican the day before the match. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis cheered fellow Argentine Lionel Messi and other soccer stars Tuesday as he led a morality-focused pep rally of sorts at the Vatican for Argentina and Italy’s national teams ahead of their eagerly awaited friendly match.

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