ROME (Reuters) - Soccer great Diego Maradona has urged fellow Argentine Pope Francis to move ahead with reforms and transform the Vatican from "a lie" into an institution that gives more to the people.
"He has to change a state like the Vatican so that it gets closer to the people," Maradona told the Naples-area television station Piuenne in a programme scheduled to air on Thursday night.
"The Vatican, for me, is a lie because instead of giving to people it takes away. All popes have done this and I don't want him to do it," Maradona said, according to partial footage of the interview made available by the broadcaster.
The interview was taped in Dubai, where the former Argentine World Cup-winning captain and striker for Napoli in the 1980s works as a sports ambassador.
"I am disappointed with the Vatican but I believe in you because you are making changes and pointing us towards more human things, things that I would like to see in the Church," he said of his compatriot.
Addressing the pope as "Francisquito" (Little Francis), Maradona said:
"Little Francis, I say to you, I want to meet you and talk to you and I want to say many things to you and tell you the things you have to do for the world. This way we will have a pope".
Francis, the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, has said he wants the Church to be closer to the poor.
He has told priests to be more humble and has set an example by renouncing the spacious papal apartments used by his predecessor. Francis has also renounced the papal limousine and travels around Rome in a Ford Focus.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella, editing by Alan Baldwin)