The Michigan football team is traveling to Rome this weekend, and coach Jim Harbaugh has invited two players to accompany him and his wife to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis.
Harbaugh solicited short essays from all players interested in shaking hands with the pope. He chose junior defensive tackle Salim Makki and sophomore offensive lineman Grant Newsome.
The Associated Press published the essays by Makki and Newsome. Makki, a Muslim with a Christian grandmother, wrote about how he was grateful to the pope for defending Islam:
“In a time where Muslims have been scrutinized and wrongly identified with violence, Pope Francis has defended Islam and stated that not all Muslims are violent.”
Newsome, who is Christian but not Catholic, reflected on how he grew to appreciate God when he hurt his knee last year. Meeting the pope is an opportunity for his to express his gratitude:
“The Pope is the closest mortal being to God, so by shaking the Pope’s hand and by telling him ‘thank you,’ I feel that I could truly show God how appreciative I am of him.”
While all the Michigan players heading to Rome will undoubtedly have memorable experiences, Makki and Newsome will have a story to top them all.