Patti Smith Vatican Performance Sparks Controversy: Punk Rocker's Lyrics 'Blasphemous,' Says Catholic Group

by Christian Examiner, |

Patti Smith is performing at the Vatican's Concerto di Natale on Dec. 13, and the punk rocker's presence on the ticket is causing controversy among Catholics. Smith was invited to the Christmas concert after meeting Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square in 2013 and getting a personal invite from the Holy See himself.

U.S. singer Patti Smith performs during day 2 of The Hop Farm Festival in Paddock Wood, Kent June 30, 2012. | Reuters/Ki Price/Files

Patti Smith, whose famous 1975 song "Gloria" feature lyrics like "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine," will be joining 17 other acts in the Concerto di Natale at the Conciliation Auditorium in Rome. She's expected to perform alongside singers like Sister Cristina, the nun who won the 2014 season of "The Voice of Italy."

However, Smith has already been mired in controversy because of an earlier performance that was scheduled at a church in Naples, Italy. Portosalvo, a Catholic association, has asked that the iconic rocker be stopped from performing at the Basilica of San Giovanni Maggiore on Dec. 9 because of her "blasphemous" lyrics, Italian newspaper Corrierer del Mezzogiorno reported.

Smith, who was raised as a Jehovah's witness, has included Christian imagery in her work before, and she was hardly in support of organized religion. But when she met the Pope, she told reporters he was "very interesting" and she "liked him a lot."

In addition, she said that the Pope may not be at the Concerto di Natale when she performs.

"I'm not playing to the Pope," she told The Guardian. "He may not even be there! But I expect there'll be a bunch of cardinals. It's a Christmas concert for the people, and it's being televised. I like Pope Francis and I'm happy to sing for him."

Smith has said in previous interviews that she does not support traditional religion, but also said that one of her most infamous lyrics was from decades ago.

"Anyone who would confine me to a line from 20 years ago is a fool!" the rocker said. "I had a strong religious upbringing, and the first word on my first LP is Jesus. I did a lot of thinking. I'm not against Jesus, but I was 20 and I wanted to make my own mistakes and I didn't want anyone dying for me. I stand behind that 20-year-old girl, but I have evolved. I'll sing to my enemy!"