International football star Ronaldo Nazário was received into the Catholic Church on Tuesday 12 September in his home country of Brazil.
Announcing on his Instagram to some 30 million followers, the two-time Ballon D’Or winner and former Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, and Inter Milan striker revealed he was baptised, confirmed and given first communion in the ceremony by Fr Fábio de Melo.
Pictures display Brazilian “Ronaldo”, as he is known to fans, with his head bowed, receiving the baptismal effusion in a private ceremony, and afterwards smiling with loved ones and his priest before an altar adorned with a crucifix and a statue of St Joseph.
“Today is a very special day. I was baptized!” he announced.
Clarifying his spiritual upbringing and confirmed status, Ronaldo revealed: “The Christian faith has always been a fundamental part of my life, since childhood, even though I had not yet been baptized.”
He then thanked Fr Fabio de Melo, his godparents Amilcar and Malu, and the members of Sao Jose church where the ceremony took place.
Fr de Melo is a similarly popular public figure in Brazil and the Portuguese speaking world. With 26 million followers on instagram, the enigmatic 52-year old Dehonian priest (belonging to the Congregation of the Sacred Heart) is simultaneously an artist, writer, university professor, singer and television presenter.
Although only just baptised, Ronaldo has however had a long-standing relationship with the Catholic Church. Alongside a signed jersey from Pele, he once donated a signed football to Pope Francis which can be found in the Vatican museum.
Born in the middle-class Bento Ribeiro suburb of Rio de Janeiro, Ronaldo’s parents split up when he was young and despite early academic promise he became a school drop-out at the age of eleven shortly afterwards.
He soon took to playing football in the street, where his prodigious talent became noticed. He would go on to be one of Brazil’s all-time top scorers at the international level, a World Cup winner in 2002, and a two-time winner of football’s highest award.
Looking to the future, he stated: “I renew my commitment to follow the path of good, of my own free will, believing in the love of Jesus, in supportive love.”