The Queen of Soul & The Pope
When Pope Francis visited the U.S., he was greeted by overflowing crowds of people from Washington, DC, to Philadelphia, to NYC; three of America’s most densely populated urban cities. He is only the fourth Pope to visit the United States and the first Pope of non-Anglo origins. The Pope’s native tongue is Spanish, but he is also conversant in Italian, Portuguese, French, German, Ukrainian and Piedmontese (a language only spoken in the upper Piedmont region of Northern Italy) and of course Latin, the language of the Holy Spirit. Interestingly enough, Pope Francis also speaks English, but it is not listed because he is not comfortable enough to consider himself fluent in English. However, while in the U.S. the Pope gave several speeches entirely in English, including, one that was historically delivered to both Houses of the U.S. Congress. Pope Francis, unlike many of his predecessors, is truly considered the People’s Pope. He doesn’t fully embrace a lot of the traditional pomp and circumstance that is associated with the Papacy and intentionally makes himself available to just common people as a part of his duty and calling.
While in the U.S., the Pope was honored and revered by his following of faithful Catholics, and, perhaps, some of those who aren’t traditionally so faithful, but still feel inspired by the Pope himself. The Papal visit was truly an historic occasion and one which put the U.S. and its cultural, social and political issues on the world stage. Worldwide coverage of the Pope’s visit was extensive, and in the 24-hour cable news cycle, bordered on excessive. The only way to get away from it was to actually turn the television off. On the positive side, it distracted the political pundits away from their obsession with the so-called #TRUMP effect and the contentious politics of the day. The Festival of Families was a nationally broadcast main stage public event full of music, visual arts, and performances by world-renowned artists. At the huge gathering on Independence Square in Philadelphia, hosted by television and film star Mark Wahlberg – himself a catholic – major recording artists like The Queen of Soul, herself, held over a million people mesmerized as they watched the event live and millions of others who watched on televisions around the world.
I was struck by the appearance of Aretha Franklin at the event because it seemed, unlike others on stage that evening, the Queen paid no homage to the Holy Father at all. In her show stopping performance of “Amazing Grace”, performed with a band, Pentecostal organ, full gospel choir and a trio of back-up singers, one could have forgotten that the Pope was even present. The Queen of Soul took the stage as if she were giving a concert performance or gospel show full of gospel runs, wailing, shoutin’, and dancin’ in the spirit! She was the DIVA and giving “glory to God” as she had her moment of, what we call, “getting’ happy” with the tambourines a playin’. And after she had her moment of praise, she took a bow and left the stage without even a glance in the Pope’s direction. After the momentary awkward pause, host Mark Wahlberg picked up the microphone and introduced the next speaker on the program.
In her own way, the Queen of Soul put into check the “other-worldly” worshipping of His Holiness the Pope. She pointed out that she has a direct line to God the Father and that, indeed, He (The Father) was the only One she believed worthy of Worship and Praise. While the Pope is a prominent spiritual leader, touching his garment was not going to get her the type of peace, absolution or blessing that she was in need of…. And so… she gave honor to whom honor was due and I, for one, found that to be a pretty BOLD move.
Up Next Week: The Blood & Carnage Continues