SUNDERLAND fans will be hoping their prayers are answered in tomorrow’s derby clash – after the club got a new supporter on board.
Club chaplain Father Marc Layden-Smith, from Hebburn, presented Pope Francis with a personalised Black Cats’ shirt while on a pilgrimage in Rome this week.
The red and white strip was emblazoned with the words ‘Papa Francesco’ and brought a smile to the face of the pontiff.
With Sunderland propping up the Premier League table ahead of the Newcastle fixture at the Stadium of Light, supporters have been losing faith in their side.
But they will be hoping Father Marc, who was ordained at St Aloysius Church in Argyle Street, Hebburn, has secured help from above for their team.
Father Marc met up with Pope Francis during his visit to the Eternal City with the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, the Right Reverand Seamus Cunningham.
He had asked the club for a shirt with Pope Francis’ name on it.
A life-long Sunderland fan, Father Marc also has strong links to Sunday’s derby rivals Newcastle – he is curate to St Mary’s Cathedral in the city.
Father Marc took to Twitter to share his delight, saying: “Delighted to say that I’ve just met the Pope and presented him with a Sunderland strip.”
He also tweeted pictures of the iconic image of the Pope holding the red and white shirt bearing his name.