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Nat Geo, Kennedy Center salute Pope Francis with new picture book, concert

Pope Francis stands in the Sistine Chapel on Christmas Day in the cover photo of the new National Geographic book "Pope Francis and the New Vatican." (Dave Yoder/National Geographic)

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis’ visit to D.C. will be filled with traffic, politics and religion.

But it’s also affecting the world of entertainment.

WTOP explores a special concert at the Kennedy Center and a new book by National Geographic.


‘A Concert to Celebrate Pope Francis’

The Kennedy Center will hold “A Concert to Celebrate Pope Francis” at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

The concert is free to the public with tickets distributed at a first come, first served basis beginning at 6 p.m. at the entrance to the Hall of Nations. Guests may receive up to two tickets per person.

The concert will feature the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Evan Rogister performing with mezzo-soprano Clémentine Margaine and 10-year-old jazz prodigy José André Montaño.

Other young artists will include an ensemble of bandoneón player Raúl Jaurena and six string players from the National Youth Orchestra of Uruguay, DC Youth Slam Team member Hannah Smallwood, and Washington National Opera Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Ariana Wehr.

“It’s a wonderful way for the arts to speak to  many of the special parts of his agenda: peace and youth and the environment,” Rogister tells WTOP. “I believe that music is perhaps the most contemplative of all the art forms because it takes place in live time, and at the same time, it can take you out of real time. So in that sense, many pieces of music and several of the ones we’ve chosen can deliver a peaceful message better than perhaps any other art form.”

Music will include Mozart’s “Exsultate, jubilate” and “Alleluia,” Britten’s “What the Wild Flowers Tell Me,” Holst’s “Venus: Bringer of Peace,” Franck’s “Panis angelicus” and Piazzolla’s “Libertango.”

In addition to the musicians, the event will feature Golden Globe nominee Eva Longoria (“Desperate Housewives”), who will advocate for folks with special needs. The pope will not be in attendance, but the Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, will read a message from the pontiff.

The event will run 75 minutes without an intermission. The entire performance will also be broadcast on a screen at the North Millennium Stage in the Grand Foyer in case of overflow.

Hear the full interview with conductor Evan Rogister below:


‘Pope Francis and the New Vatican’

If you can’t make it out to any of the events, you can experience Pope Francis from the comfort of your own living room with the new coffee-table book “Pope Francis and the New Vatican.”

National Geographic has compiled stunning images by photographer David Yoder, who captured the pope in intimate situations such as alone in the Sistine Chapel on Christmas Day.

“The trick of being a photographer is to disappear, to make subjects no longer notice you’re there,” author Robert Draper tells WTOP. “You do that by being unobtrusive, you do that by being persistent, but you do that also by being respectful, so that you essentially become wallpaper.”

The photos are paired with insightful essays by Draper, who visited Argentina to interview the pope’s closest confidants from back when he was simply known as Jorge Bergoglio in Flores, Buenos Aires.

“I had the blessings to interview a lot of people who have known the pope for a very long time,” Draper says. “Some of them have known him for as long as 10 years, some for as long as 50, but through that, (we) began to develop a stronger sense of who this man is and what forces shaped him.”

Draper says Pope Francis is shifting the Church back toward Christianity’s humble beginnings.

“Pope Francis is a throwback,” Draper says. “It shouldn’t be revolutionary to say the church should reach out toward the poor and afflicted and alienated; that the church should go out to the periphery and engage in actual dialogue with people who have been alienated from the church; and that dialogue entails not just lecturing, not just proselytizing, but actually listening. That’s what Jesus did.”

Draper says Pope Francis was elected to change the insulated culture of The Vatican.

“Over time, the church has become increasingly insulated and Vatican City has become very much its own kind of city-state,” Draper says. “The pope was elected — Bergoglio was elevated to the papacy — very much to change that. The conclave of cardinals who voted for him felt that the church had seen nothing but bad news days, that one scandal after the next was putting a stain on the church. They wanted someone who would not only fix that, but would just overall change the attitude and the appearance and the approach of the church to go with the changing times.”

So what’s next for Pope Francis as the Catholic Church continues to evolve?

“Will he reverse the doctrine of celibacy for priests? Will he allow women into the clergy? Will he make it the law of the Catholic land to allow divorced people to take communion? Will he, for that matter, have anything more to say about same-sex marriage? We don’t know,” Draper asks. “But it would not totally astonish me if, including when he comes to Washington, D.C. to speak before the joint session of Congress on Sept. 24, if he says some very very poignant things relating to income equality, relating to climate change and, who knows, perhaps about the workings of the church itself.”

Hear the full interview with author Robert Draper below.

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