As a graduate from a Catholic school and an avid hip-hop fan, I never believed that the two would ever find common ground. Lo and behold, one of the latest viral hashtags, #PopeBars, shows Pope Francis in poses that appear like he’s about to freestyle, with social media users adding their own Catholic Church-themed rhymes to the mix.
Pope Francis has been a voice calling for unity among the human race despite differences in religion, socioeconomic class, race, culture and more. “Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters. We must, therefore, consider ourselves and conduct ourselves as such,” he said during his visit to Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. The photo taken at the event drew social media users to create memes about it.
The meme drew the attention of rapper Talib Kweli (seeker of truth in Arabic), one of the pioneers of conscious hip-hop, a subgenre of hip-hop where political, social and economic issues are talked about. Kweli even composed his own #PopeBars rap: “Battle skills got the Papal seal. You know the deal, I keeps it real, no ceilings on the popemobile #PopeBars,” he said on Twitter.
Some users also combined #PopeBars with historical themes. “All other MCs, your rhymes are spent, you’re Martin Luther, and I’m the Council of Trent #PopeBars,” said Twitter user @walrusmaster, referencing the Reformation which began when Martin Luther pinned his 95 Theses to the church at Wittenberg, Germany in 1521. The Reformation is an event where Protestants broke away from the Catholic Church to protest the sale of indulgences. In Catholic doctrine, an indulgence is a grant by the pope of remission of the temporal punishment in purgatory still due for sins after absolution. The sale of indulgences was seen by Protestants as an abuse of power at the time.
The Council of Trent, an ecumenical council held from 1545 to 1563, was seen as the Catholic reaction to the Reformation and addressed many points of Catholic doctrine. Ecumenical councils, a gathering of Catholic officials and theologians to discuss points of doctrine, grew increasingly rare; the one following the Council of Trent was the First Vatican Council (Vatican I) more than 300 years later, with the most recent, the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), being held from 1962 to 1965 to address the Catholic Church’s role in modern times.
Other users intricately worked other memes into #PopeBars such as Mom’s Spaghetti, which was a meme that arose from the Eminem song “Lose Yourself” featured in the 2002 movie 8 Mile. “Psalms are sweaty, knees weak cross is heavy, there’s vomit on his robe already, Vatican spaghetti #PopeBars,” said various users on the social network. Pope Francis is no stranger to the music industry – he’s released a music album, Wake Up!, which combines his speeches with music from Italian artists and producers, and has donated 10 percent of the proceeds to charities supporting refugees. Thanks to the Internet, sick rhymes and the world’s holiest figure can merge together to form a viral sensation.