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Pope’s First Pop CD, Video Premier

March 18, 1999

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Spreading the word worldwide with a world beat, Vatican Radio and Sony Classical are introducing a first-ever music CD and video featuring Pope John Paul II, praying to the accompaniment of Celtic flutes and African drums.

The target audience: MTV and the pop charts, as well as 1 billion faithful around the globe.

Producers will release the first 1 million copies of ``Abba Pater″ around the world on Tuesday, timing it for the Easter holidays and the upcoming 2,000th anniversary of Christianity. The pope got his copy, the first one produced, at his general audience Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square.

Culled from Vatican Radio recordings over John Paul’s 20-year papacy, ``Abba Pater″ features the pope reciting psalms, Gospels and other inspirational passages _ occasionally singing.

Mixed in the recording studio is a world beat music background as eclectic as it is ecclesiastic: Everything from chants from Uganda with African percussion, to Slavonic liturgy from Bratislava, to Celtic flutes to classical.

They showed one video Wednesday: MTV-paced, digitally doctored, rapid-fire cuts of John Paul embracing children, strolling mountains and dunes, greeting the faithful, appearing pensive, all to an orchestral background.

The spirit of the video is upbeat and warm, although there’s a jarring moment in which a man and woman appear in profile _ naked or near enough to count as such, for the few seconds they show.

``Abba Pater″ _ one of the cuts on the CD as well as the title _ is the Aramaic and Latin for ``Father.″

For a pope who’s already embraced the Internet, the pop CD, singles and video are just another way of spreading the word, church officials said at a Vatican news conference with the president of Sony Classical.

``His mission is essentially the transmission of the message,″ said Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, president of the Vatican’s committee for 2000 Jubilee celebrations.

The production is a mix of God and Mammon, however. Sony will pay royalties to Radio Vatican and the religious media firm Audiovisivi San Paolo. Sony Classical President Peter Gelb and church officials deflected repeated questions at the packed news conference about just how any profits will be split.

Sony expects it to sell millions, Gelb said. It will pitch the video to MTV and VH1 in the United States, among many other outlets.

The pope has ventured into the commercial world of mass media before with his book ``Crossing the Threshold of Hope.″ He earmarked his royalties from the book to charity.

For his pop debut, the pope had no direct involvement _ all the work used existing recordings.

``Even though several trade magazines said we had signed the pope, unfortunately, that is not true,″ Gelb said.

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