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French PM Castex gives pope signed Lionel Messi jersey

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Pope Francis receives a Paris Saint Germain jersey signed by Argentine Lionel Messi as a gift from French Prime Minister Jean Castex during a private audience at the Vatican, October 18, 2021 in this screengrab taken from a video. REUTERS TV/Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS

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VATICAN CITY, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Pope Francis, a keen soccer fan, received an unusual gift on Monday from France's prime minister - a jersey signed by the pontiff's fellow Argentine Lionel Messi.

Jean Castex gave the pope the glass-framed number 30 jersey, signed by Messi, who plays for Paris St Germain, following 35 minutes of private talks at the Vatican.

Francis, 84, has met Messi, 34, and once called him one of the greatest soccer players of all time. Francis is a lifelong fan of the Buenos Aires San Lorenzo soccer team.

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The French premier also gave the pope a more traditional gift - an 1836 edition of "Notre Dame de Paris", Victor Hugo's classic novel about the hunchbacked bell ringer Quasimodo set in Paris in 1482.

Castex was visiting the Vatican and Rome for celebrations marking the centenary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between France and the Holy See.

After meeting the pope, Castex toured the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica.

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Reporting by Philip Pullella Editing by Gareth Jones

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