Music and singing “are capable of transmitting the beauty and strength of Christian love,” said Pope Francis in 2018.
No surprise then that the Holy Pontiff and his predecessors are big music fans. Ever wonder what’s on his and other popes’s playlists? Here’s what’s on heavy rotation!
Pope Francis: Bach and Mozart
According to classicfm.com, works by Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart— specifically Bach’s moving “Mass in B Minor” and Mozart’s dramatic “Great Mass in C Minor”— are music to Lolo Kiko’s ears.
“The ‘Et incarnatus est’ from the ‘Mass in C minor’ is matchless; it lifts you to God! Mozart fulfills me,” he said in an interview. “But I cannot think about his music; I have to listen to it. I like listening to Beethoven, but in a Promethean way, and the most Promethean interpreter for me is [German conductor] Wilhelm Furtwängler.” (LOOK: Side A’s Joey Benin Is Now a Full-time Church Minister)
“And then there is Bach’s Passions,” he continued. “The piece by Bach that I love so much is the ‘Erbarme Dich,’ the tears of Peter in the St. Matthew Passion. Sublime.”
Pope Benedict XVI: Bach and Mozart
Apparently, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and his successor share a love for Bach and Mozart. Pope Benedict XVI also named the B Minor Mass and St. Matthew Passion as his favorite pieces by Bach. (
Of Mozart, he cited the composer’s “Clarinet Quintet in A,” “Coronation Mass,” “Requiem” (“the first concern I ever heard in my life,” he said in an interview), “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” (“we tried to play that on the piano as a duet when we were children”), “The Magic Flute,” and “Don Giovanni.”
“Mozart is pure inspiration—or at least I feel it so,” said Pope Benedict, who plays the piano even until now. (Read: Happy 92nd Birthday, Pope Benedict!)
Pope John Paul II: Inspirational Songs
The saint pope’s favorite song is the inspirational “Barka” (Polish for “The Barge”). Originally the 1974 Spanish song “Pescador de Hombres” by Cesareo Gabarain, it was translated to the English “Lord You Have Come to the Lakeshore” by Gertrude C. Suppe, George Lockwood, and Raquel Gutierrez-Achon, then to Polish by Fr. Stanislaw Szmidt.
“I have not forgotten this song,” he told the crowd after a Mass in Krakow in August 2002. “It was like a hidden breath of our homeland. It was my guide on a variety of paths of the Church.” (Read: How Pope John Paul II Became A ‘Secret Activist’)
Pope Paul VI: Classical, Jazz, Contemporary Music
Though Pope Paul VI liked to relax to classical music in his Vatican apartment, the original Pilgrim Pope actually permitted the playing of jazz and other contemporary and popular music in religious services in 1967.
Pope Leo XIII: Sacred Music
The first pope with a recording of his voice (he was singing the “Ave Maria”) and the first pope to be filmed with a motion picture camera was said to be a “lover of music,” a passion that served the Catholic Church well. (Read: 3 Online Concerts to Look Forward This Month of July)
At a time when the faithful from all over the world were hankering for “true genuine church music” (that is, “more intelligent text and less theatrical music”), Leo XIII issued his Regulations for Sacred Music on September 24, 1884, “in order to bring an effective remedy to serious abuses, which got into sacred music” in various churches in Italy.