ROME, Sept. 27 -- A Jewish-born folk singer, whose lyrics inspired the 1960s counterculture, sang tonight before the leader of the world's biggest Christian denomination. Bob Dylan is used to filling stadiums with tie-dyed-clad admirers but earlier this evening he performed at the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna, with an audience of 400,000 that included Pope John Paul II. The concert marked the end of the Eucharistic Congress and is part of a series of events staged in the prelude to the Holy Year in 2,000, when millions of Catholics are expected to converge on Rome. After a successful trip to Paris in August, when an estimated one million young people prayed with the pope, the Vatican is trying hard to draw disaffected and lapsed Catholic youth back into the flock. Dylan and the pope formed a unique double act. Before the singer's appearance, the pontiff chose to answer Dylan's most famous question. 'How many roads does a man have to follow?' said the pope, paraphrasing the opening lyrics of the hit song 'Blowin' in the Wind.' His answer:'One, the road of Christ.' John Paul greetedthe legendary folk-rock singer after his second song and then retired. Dylan, who was paid $30,000 for the world-wide broadcast, played three pieces -- 'Forever Young,' 'Knocking On Heaven's Door,' and 'Hard Rain.' The lyrics first had to be approved by a censor. Dylan converted to Christianity after a traumatic car crash but his performance before the pope has been labelled a publicity stunt for his new album, due for release on Tuesday.
Asked by a reporter, 'How can you justify having a Jew, iconoclast and symbol of the counterculture play in a concert dedicated to Catholicism in front of the pope?,' concert organizer Monsignor Ernesto Vecchi said: 'The Church accepts...that all that is true, beautiful and right is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. And the music of Bob Dylan is true and beautiful.' ---
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