The Sunderland chaplain who presented a red and white striped shirt to Pope Francis said the pontiff was "delighted to keep it" and took the gift back to the papal apartments.
Father Marc Lyden-Smith said the Pope was aware of the Wearside club's struggles and told him: "They not do too well at the moment."
"I said no, no, Holy Father. They are bottom of the Premier League. We need you to pray."
"Very diplomatically, he said: 'I pray for all footballers that they reach their potential.'"
"I'd like to think that he'll be wearing [the Sunderland shirt] on Sunday afternoon," the chaplain added.
Winless Sunderland face fierce local rivals Newcastle United in Wear-Tyne derby this Sunday.
Gus Poyet has been named as the new Sunderland manager, the club has announced.
The Uruguayan has agreed a two year contract with the club and will take charge of the Black Cats with immediate effect.
Poyet, 45, replaces controversial Italian Paolo Di Canio, who was sacked last month by bottom-of-the-table Sunderland.
The former Chelsea midfielder previously led Brighton and Hove Albion into the Championship during a successful four year tenure before leaving in acrimonious circumstances in June.
Paolo Di Canio, who was sacked as manager of Sunderland AFC in September, has denied that there was a "training ground bust-up" with his players before he was asked to leave.
"There has been a lot written in the media in recent days, much of it wholly untrue," he said.
"There was no training ground bust-up as some are reporting, and many of the players have since sent me messages thanking me for my time as their manager and helping them to improve as footballers."
Sunderland AFC confirmed on 22 September that it had parted company with Di Canio.
A Newcastle United fan, who admitted a charge of violent disorder today, hit a police horse after his team lost to their arch-rivals Sunderland 3-0 in April.
The horse, called Bud, was "totally fine" after the punch but was given the next day off by West Yorkshire Police's mounted section.
A football fan who punched a horse after his team lost to their arch-rivals has admitted violent disorder.
Barry Rogerson, 45, was charged after trouble started when Newcastle United lost 3-0 at home to Sunderland in April.
He appeared in the dock at Newcastle Crown Court today with five others who also admitted violent disorder.
Rogerson, of Bedlington, Northumberland, previously denied the offence.
Football pundits had mixed reactions on Twitter to head coach Paolo Di Canio's exit from Sunderland AFC:
Sunderland AFC has confirmed it has "parted company" with head coach Paolo Di Canio.
The club said in a statement:
Sunderland AFC confirmed it has parted company with head coach Paolo Di Canio this evening.