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.
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