Pope Francis’ rockstar status is especially strong this week as the streets of New York City flood with loving fans. And while his taste in music may rightfully take a backseat as he addresses topic after polarizing topic with a beautifully progressive attitude, it’s worth a quick refresher. After all, who would have guessed that the worldwide leader of the Catholic Church would strike up a friendship with Patti Smith?
If we’re diving into the Pope’s relationship to music, it’s worth noting that he worked as a nightclub bouncer before his pivot into the priesthood. While it’s fun to ponder what genres he might have taken a liking to while on the scene, it’s unlikely we’ll dig up any of his old mixtapes. Even his preference for classical composer Richard Wagner (whose legacy was not the most liturgical) caught some flak when it came to light in 2013.
In spite of this, a number of cool gigs have been coordinated throughout Francis’ papal reign, including Aretha Franklin’s performance for him at the Festival of Families concert this year. So it’s sort of fitting that his appreciation for the Queen of Soul was prefaced by his unlikely bond with the Godmother of Punk.
Pope Francis faced a wave of criticism when he invited Patti Smith to perform for the Vatican’s Christmas concert last year, with particular heat on one of her old lyrics, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.” At the same time, Smith was fielding hate on the other side, with some fans calling her a hypocrite for accepting the invite.
“I like Pope Francis and I’m happy to sing for him,” she responded. “Anyone who would confine me to a line from 20 years ago is a fool.” (In fact, the line was from 40 years ago. “Gloria (In Excelsis Deo)” was the first song on her first album, Horses, released in 1975.)
Pope Francis, as always, was unconcerned with the controversy. The show went on, and her rendition of “O Holy Night” was as incredible as you might imagine. There’s a myriad of reasons to love our 266th, but his affinity for punk hits all the right notes.
If you want to catch Pope Francis on his last day in the city today, the Central Park Papal Procession will take place at 5:15pm on Central Park’s West Drive between 72nd and 60th street, before the Madison Square Mass at 6pm.
Article: Olivia Isenhart