Vatican cancels football match with Vienna over anti-abortion protests

    The Vatican's newly formed women's football team canceled a match against an Austrian side following a protest over the Church's stance on abortion.

    Rome (CNN)The Vatican canceled a friendly football match between its new women's team and a club in Vienna, after a number of Austrian players protested against the Catholic Church's stance on abortion.

    The match, which was scheduled to take place Saturday at the Mariahilf football club in the Austrian capital, was called off after several Austrians lifted up their shirts to reveal pro-choice messages painted on their stomachs and backs while the countries' anthems were playing before kick-off.
    One player wrote the slogan "my body my rules" on her back, according to images circulating on social media.
      Vatican News, the official news agency of the Vatican City, said that the match turned into a "protest against the Church." The tie was intended to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the club's founding.
      "During the Vatican's anthem, some Austrian women raised their shirts, displaying writing on their stomachs and backs in favor of abortion, then sending pro-LGBT messages in opposition to the church's stance," the agency said. It added that politically charged banners were displayed in the stands.
      The news agency described the team's welcome as "truly unexpected," and noted that they decided to abandon the game "with great sadness."
      "The protest caught the Vatican players by surprise, who were expecting a simple sporting event, and together with their manager, took the difficult decision not to take part in the match so as not to further the exploitation of the event," the agency said.