Oh Mercy: Ratzinger Blasts Dylan for Papal Songfest

Why Pope Tried to Stop Dylan Knockin' on Heaven's Door (The Times)

(to the tune of "Hattie Carroll")

Joseph Ratzinger dissed poor Bobby Dylan
For singing his songs to the lord of the Vatican
It was low and unseemly, said Joe of the mission
That John Paul extended to the youth of the nation
For Joe was the keeper of all old tradition
As the head of what folks once called The Inquisition
So he tried to cast out the folk-singing demon
With his guitars and drums and his devilish rhythm
But the boss-man insisted that people should hear him
And took up the words of his songs as a sermon
And even shook hands with the Jew on the rostrum
But it didn't mean nothing to Joseph Ratzinger....

And you who philosophize your faith
And worship pious peers
Holy Joe is now running the place
With a hard heart and a pair of tin ears.

Excerpts from the Times, the Independent and the Guardian:

Bob Dylan and the Pope were an unlikely double act for a rendition of the 1970s anthem Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. But even the crowd of pop fans who were brought to their knees by the appearance of Pope John Paul II alongside Dylan could scarcely have imagined the rift that it caused.

The Pope’s chief aide, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was so appalled at the prospect of the pontiff sharing a platform with the “self-styled prophet of pop” that he tried his utmost to stop the spectacle. The Pope overruled him.

The cardinal, now Pope Benedict XVI, says in a book to be published next week that while he agreed with his predecessor on most matters, he did not share his liking for pop music. Pope Benedict says that he “doubts to this day whether it was right to let this kind of so-called prophet take the stage” in front of the Pope...Describing Dylan as a "type of 'prophet'", he claimed the singer's message diverged from that the Pope wished to convey...He admits that John Paul did get across a spiritual message that was otherwise largely “ignored by the entertainment industry”.

...At the concert in Bologna, attended by 300,000 people in 1997, Dylan  sang Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door and A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, his antiwar classic, with Forever Young as an encore.

He did not sing his 1963 hit Blowin’ in the Wind, but John Paul II – who was known for his showmanship and media skills – showed his familiarity with the song and based his homily on it in an effort to connect with the audience.

“You say the answer is blowing in the wind, my friend,” he said. “So it is: but it is not the wind that blows things away, it is the breath and life of the Holy Spirit, the voice that calls and says, Come!” This brought the house down. The Pope added: “You ask me how many roads a man must walk down before he becomes a man. I answer: there is only one road for man, and it is the road of Jesus Christ, who said, ‘I am the Way and the Life’.”

..Pope Benedict...has made no attempt to hide his dislike of the church's use of pop music to ingratiate itself with the young. Last year he called for an end to electric guitars and modern music in church and a return to traditional music. He has described "great mass gatherings" of pop fans as "a kind of cult, at odds with the cult of Christianity". He quietly cancelled the Vatican's annual Christmas pop concert.

Gerald O'Connell, an expert on Vatican affairs, commented: "I think the difference in their approaches comes from their very different life experiences. John Paul II went camping and canoeing with young people. He enjoyed singing round the campfire when he was at university. It's a question of different sensitivies. It's a sign of honesty in Benedict that he reveals this." But it is also part of a more general turning away from pop culture on the part of the church - in part a reaction to criticisms of Western materialism by prominent Muslims.

When Lou Reed, Alanis Morissette and the Eurythmics starred at a May Day concert attended by the Pope in his jubilee year, the bishop in charge, Fernando Charrier, said: "Do not be astonished. Rock is an expression of today's world, particularly dear to the young. All [forms of] human expression, when they have dignity, command respect. I do not believe there has ever existed a [form of] rock that is diabolical."

But with the condemnation of the materialist, consumption-mad West by Islamic writers in recent years, the church has had a rethink. "Something we should all give up, not just for Lent but for good," said the National Catholic Register last month, is "the excesses of pop culture ... Our first duty is to opt out of the aspects of pop culture that have become so debased ... The arts have become a cesspool."

Meanwhile, his Bobness has only happy memories of Bologna. "That show was one of the best I ever played in my whole life," he said.