Eight members of England's Rugby World Cup-winning squad met Pope John Paul II in Rome on Wednesday.
The Pope blesses members of the England team
Lawrence Dallaglio, Josh Lewsey and Mike Catt were among the group who were part of the Pontiff's weekly general audience at the Vatican.
The England players were brought forward to meet the Pope, presenting him with an autographed shirt.
The visit was originally due to take place when the squad were in Italy for last season's Six Nations match.
Father Andrew Headon, vice-rector of the Venerable English College, said: "When the team came to Italy after the World Cup, I tried to arrange a private audience, but it wasn't possible.
"In the summer, Lawrence Dallaglio and some of the lads asked if they could have an audience.
"Kevin Lidlow, an old school friend of mine, and the physio to a number of the team, arranged the visit. We sat in the front row and we were brought up to meet the Pope and have our photograph taken with him."
The whole Word Cup squad were invited, but due to training and other commitments, only eight of them - five of whom are Catholic - were able to attend.
They later attended a reception held for them at the Venerable English College.