Borussia Mönchendgladbach met Pope Francis at the Vatican on Wednesday in what captain Lars Stindl described as "a real honour" for the team.
The Gladbach squad arrived in Rome on Tuesday and enjoyed a tour of the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica ahead of their audience with the pontiff on Wednesday morning.
The meeting was made possible by Gladbach vice-president Rainer Bonhof, who has good contacts at the Vatican and presented Pope Francis with a club jersey when they met in October 2015.
On this visit, Gladbach president Rolf Königs gave a short speech before Pope Francis, a supporter of San Lorenzo in his native Argentina, addressed the team in Italian:
"The Folhenelf stands out as a tailor-made, family-friendly people’s club. It’s great to see families filling up Borussia-Park and how educational programmes and initiatives are implemented to help young people – especially those who are disadvantaged. I encourage you as athletes of good and of peace, who our world needs today, to continue to support this cause."
The Pope was then presented with a framed Gladbach shirt before greeting each of the players personally.
"To be able to experience something like that is truly special” Stindl told the club's official website afterwards. "I can only be grateful on behalf of the whole team from the bottom of heart that we have had the chance to meet the Pope. It’s a real honour for us. We’ll certainly be able to use this experience to gain strength for the season ahead."
An official Gladbach team made up of veteran former players will take on a Vatican representative side in November, in what will be the fourth such encounter between the teams.
“In the last few years a very good relationship has been developed with the Vatican representative team,” said Bonhof, who also met Pope Benedict XVI in 2011.
Germany’s senior squad also got the chance to meet Pope Francis last November, while Bayern Munich were also granted an audience in 2014.
Watch: Gladbach's Media Day