Sorry, the Video of John Paul II Singing the Ave Maria Isn’t Real

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An article was posted earlier this year:

Header from an article circulated earlier this year.

The Pope’s voice?

On one occasion St. Pope John Paul II is known to have quipped, “Music is extremely helpful for prayer. As Saint Augustine said, ‘He who sings, prays twice.'” And when asked if he sang to pray, he continued, “When I sang, it was more like I was praying only once.”

Those who know this story were perhaps a little more perplexed than others, then, when a YouTube video resurfaced claiming to be John Paul II singing the Ave Maria in a soaring tenor voice. First erroneously reported by EWTN’s series Life on the Rock in 2009, it is said that a recording of John Paul II singing the Franz Shubert favorite was discovered from 1976. This story was recently circulated widely first by the excellent Catholic blog ChurchPop, and then later picked up by the National Catholic Register just in time to go semi-viral, once again, for the Pope-Saint’s feast day on October 22.

The recording is certainly very beautiful, and should definitely count as “praying twice.” It is not, however, Pope John Paul II singing. The recording artist who is actually singing is named Marty de Rose.

It was first released in an album titled Pope John Paul II: Papal Blessing, Ave Maria, Music of the Catholic Church by Gateway Records in 1995. The title is slightly misleading which is most likely where the confusion began. Although John Paul II gives the Papal Blessing, he does not sing the Ave Maria.

Marty de Rose was also featured in another CD released in 2003 by Catholic Pulse titled Papal Blessing, with Music of the Catholic Church. (A slightly less misleading title.)

Making things even more confusing, iTunes has incorrect source information (not entirely uncommon for iTunes). Correct source information can be found by searching this link.

If you find yourself profoundly disappointed that you did not, in fact, hear the saintly Pope singing, Be Not Afraid! (See what we did there?) You can hear him sing for real, here:

But JPII played baseball right?

Is it? Or isn’t it?

Also resurfacing last month was this photo and a video of John Paul II supposedly at batting cages in California which you can watch by clicking here. Don’t get too excited though! While it is widely known that John Paul II was an avid sportsman, and pictures of him kicking soccer balls with children and holding hockey sticks in papal audiences are real and verified, a baseball playing pontiff he was not. Take a closer look:

There are a few discrepancies from what the real John Paul II would have looked like. With our help, can you see them now? (The papal slippers are typically brown or red, not white, JPII usually wore gray or dark pants, not white, the coat of arms on his fascia – the white ‘belt’ is incorrect, the pectoral cross is similar but not the same as the real one, and is on the wrong button, and his zucchetto is missing, to top off his longer than real hair!)

The man in these photos and in the YouTube batting cages video is most likely the late Eugene Greytak, a man who had such an uncanny resemblance to the polish Holy Father that he began a second career later in his life as a “papal impersonator!”

Greytak was a faithful Catholic, and although he played Pope John Paul II in movies such as Sister Act and Naked Gun, on the Tonight Show, and in several commercials (including the spot for the batting cages in California!), he refused to impersonate the Pope in anything that would have cast a disparaging (or worse) light on the Pope, the church, or the faith. Sometimes this meant turning down lucrative opportunities. A man of principle and humble faith, Greytak passed into eternal life in February of 2010.

John Paul II was a beloved pope and is a beloved saint. His life could easily be the stuff of legend. His love reminded us of the Father, and his legacy continues to live on among the faithful. Truly he was such a great man that knowing what is not true about him can only serve to make us want to get to know the real John Paul II all the better!

Tell us some of your favorite John Paul II anecdotes in the comments!

JPII, slightly disheveled after a hike.
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