The Holy See announced earlier today in Rome that the controversial play during the opening kickoff of Christmas Eve Mass was, indeed, an illegal play and the ruling made on the floor of St. Catherine's will stand as originally called.
The play unfolded with Pope Benedict XVI following his blockers down the aisle on the opening drive of the mass. Suddenly bumrushed by a defender angling in from the sidelines, the Holy Father, criticized by some as having lost a step or two in recent years, was unable to sidestep from one of his own blockers being pushed into him by the would-be tackler and went down after only a short gain.
Referees immediately ruled that the tackler had been out of bounds prior to making the hit and was, therefore, ineligible to return to the field of play for the remainder of the down. The opposing team, Crazy Heathens With Psychological Problems, argued that the red-shirted freshman, Susanna Maiolo, was not out of bounds and did, in fact, make a legal tackle.
The partisan crowd stood shocked as the Pontiff was slow in getting up, as he seemed to go down awkwardly on his wrist that had been broken in the off-season. Replays on the Jumbotron suspended from the vaulted ceiling of the venerable centuries-old facility showed Benedict XVI trying to spin out of the grasp of the tackler, but unable to break free and going down.
Following a brief review from the booth confirming the initial ruling of an illegal tackle, the raucous crowd roared their approval when the Benedict-led home team was awarded an advance of additional 15 pews.
The delay seemed to be all the Pope needed to shake off the hit and, when Mass resumed, Benedict XVI, as he has done so many times since taking over this team, marched all the way down the aisle for the score, essentially changing the momentum of the evening and deflating any hopes for an upset.
In a post-Mass interview, the Pope labeled this as a team victory that he was happy to have played a part in, saying, "Coming on this day, in our home church, before a big crowd like this, it was a special Mass, that's for sure. The intensity of the hitting out there tonight reminded me of when we used to play the Lions in the old Coliseum."
The fan favorite, affectionately known as Benedictus Magnus (Big Ben) was then ushered into the Vatican's state-of-the-art training facility for treatment of his bruised arm, but not before flashing that famous smile, giving the thumbs up to the cameras and making the sign of the cross.
The Vatican team, however, did lose veteran nose tackle, Roger Etchegaray, on the play, who went down with a hip injury and will out for the remainder of the season. League officials have been under fire lately to tone down the physicality of the game, citing recent numerous injuries. The Vatican next plays the Parliamente d'Italia one week from today; a team, whose starting signal caller, Silvio Berlusconi, remains doubtful for the contest after suffering a possible concussion earlier this month from a hit to the face, ironically enough, from another player with the Crazy Heathens With Psychological Problems.