Performing for the Pope

In one of the most widely reported Christmas gifts of 1997, B.B. King handed over his guitar, Lucille, to the Pope.

Many who saw the [Dec. 18] Reuters report were greeted by the surprising line, “The Pontiff's meeting with B.B. King comes after he met folk-rock idol Bob Dylan at a concert in September. The Roman Catholic Church once branded rock music a child of the devil.”

The paper cited no documentary source for the startling claim that will come as a surprise to those familiar with the Church. The Church does not ascribe demonic origins to human creations, and had far weightier matters on its mind at the end of World War II and during the years leading up to Vatican II than the emerging musical form.

Meanwhile Gloria Estefan—whose 1995 performance at the Vatican escaped Reuter's attention—has turned down an invitation to sing before Pope John Paul II in Cuba Jan. 21-25, according to the Miami Herald (Dec. 20).

The decision was explained by her husband and manager, Emilio Estefan. “We will never sing in Cuba while Fidel Castro's regime exists.… The day Gloria sings in Cuba, she will do so because Cuba is free—and we trust this will happen soon.”

The decision was no surprise. According to the report, “[d]uring a concert in Puerto Rico some months ago, Gloria Estefan said ‘as much as I love the Pope, I won't sing in Cuba while Fidel is there.’”

Nonetheless, the Estefans support the papal visit, according to the article. “That visit can bring faith to Cuba,” said Emilio Estefan.

At her 1995 Vatican concert, Gloria Estefan is quoted saying, “Holy Father, I ask for your prayers, so the doors to freedom may open in my native country and throughout the world.”