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Pope’s First Pop CD, Video Premier

March 17, 1999

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Taking aim at the pop charts, Sony Classical and Vatican Radio kicked off a CD-ROM and music video Wednesday by a first-time artist with some big-time backing: Pope John Paul II.

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

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 world-beat background music as eclectic as it is ecclesiastic: everything from chants from Uganda with African percussion, to Slavonic liturgy from Bratislava, to Celtic flutes to classical.

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.

One video was shown 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.

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.

The CD will sell for top price around the world, with a ``normal artist royalty″ and decisions being made with church leaders in every country about the proceeds, Gelb said.

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