AP PHOTOS: Faith, sport and festival: the month in religion

At a newly founded church in Mexico dedicated to Diego Maradona a replica of his famed No. 10 jersey and other memorabilia adorned an altar honoring the late Argentine soccer legend who died in November.

An ocean away in Madrid a bullfighter clad in an elaborately embroidered “traje de luces,” or suit of lights, held hands with a young girl in prayer inside a chapel before performing at the city’s storied Las Ventas arena.

A number of images captured by AP photographers around the world in July highlighted a seemingly unlikely interplay between the world of faith and the more secular, recreational realm of sports.

That included the quadrennial crown jewel of athletic competition — the Summer Olympics, held this year in Tokyo. A member of the Iranian delegation paraded during opening ceremonies in a radiant teal head covering typical of those worn for religious reasons by many Muslim women around the world.

And sometimes it came with a more whimsical tone: In Miami, fans of baseball’s San Diego Padres donned brown friars’ robes and bald-domed tonsure wigs at the ballpark as they clapped and clasped hands in prayer during the team’s game against the Marlins.

July was also a month of holy festivals and ceremonies for diverse faith traditions across the planet.

For a second year, the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, was dramatically curtailed due to the pandemic, but people did what they could to make the most of it: Workers in hygienic face masks set up a tent camp to accommodate pilgrims in the nearby city of Mina; female police officers newly deployed to the force stood alert and in uniform as worshippers trickled past the cube-shaped Kaaba building at the Grand Mosque; and Muslims prayed in the shade of umbrellas on the rocky Mountain of Mercy outside Mecca.

Coming at the end of the hajj, the holiday of Eid al-Adha or “Feast of Sacrifice” was celebrated by Muslims from Tel Aviv, Israel, where Palestinians enjoyed a dip in the Mediterranean Sea, to Dakar, Senegal, where a boy strolled coolly through the sand wearing sunglasses and carrying his prayer rug after attending services at a mosque.

In India, a Hindu devotee grimaced from a ritual cheek-piercing with a metal rod during an annual pilgrimage to the temple of the goddess Sheetla Mata in the northern city of Jammu, while well to the south in Hyderabad, a worshipper wore brightly colored face paint for the monthlong Bonalu festival dedicated to Kali, goddess of destruction.

And in Jerusalem, ultra-Orthodox Jewish men observed the fast day of Tisha B’Av, commemorating the destruction of ancient temples, by offering prayers at the Western Wall the holiest site where Jews can pray in the Old City.

These and more are among the AP’s top faith-related images from the month.


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Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content.