Vatican Pays Extraordinary Tribute to David Bowie, in His Own Words

The "Starman" costume from David Bowie's appearance on "Top of the Pop

In an unprecedented display of praise for a pop figure, Vatican Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi tweeted encomium to David Bowie in honor of his passing, offering a final blessing for the rock star with lyrics from one of his most famous songs.

Drawing inspiration from Bowie’s 1969 hit A Space Oddity, in which the artist sings of the fictional launch and demise of astronaut “Major Tom,” Ravasi, who serves as the President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, prayed “may God’s love be with you.”

David Bowie, the iconic British pop artist, songwriter and actor, died Sunday after an 18-month bout with cancer, having turned 69 just last Friday.

On Friday Bowie also released his 25th and final album, “Blackstar,” which contains only seven songs. One is a piece called Lazarus, which, perhaps prophetically, contains the lyrics: “Look up here, I’m in heaven.”

In a 2003 interview, Bowie, who had dabbled with Christianity, confessed to not being quite an atheist. “Questioning my spiritual life has always been germane to what I was writing. Always. It’s because I’m not quite an atheist and it worries me. There’s that little bit that holds on.”

“The years really do speed by,” he said. “Life really is as short as they tell you it is. And there really is a God — so do I buy that one? If all the other clichés are true. … Hell, don’t pose me that one.”

Cardinal Ravasi, appointed to his present post by Pope Benedict XVI, has been an outspoken advocate of greater dialogue between faith and modern culture, and has encouraged meetings with agnostics and artists of all sorts.

Taking cues from then-Pope Benedict, in 2010 Ravasi launched a foundation aimed at reaching out to atheists and agnostics called “The Courtyard of the Gentiles.” The foundation sought to be a network and forum for nonbelievers and believers, promoting high-profile meetings and debates.

At the time, Ravasi said the meetings would be large, open discussions between “a believer, such as a theologian, and an atheist, conducted in the main languages of Europe.”

“I want really fundamental questions to be asked—questions of anthropology, then good and evil, life and afterlife, love, suffering, the meaning of evil—questions that are substantially at the basis of human existence,” he said.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome


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