In a private meeting with Pope Francis last week, Irish singer Paul David Hewson, better known by his stage name “Bono” of the rock band U2, said he found the pontiff not only to be creative in his solutions to poverty, but sincerely impacted by the ongoing clerical abuse crisis shattering both the Catholic Church and his papacy.
Noting how Francis returned from an overnight visit to Ireland just over three weeks ago, where he faced immense pressure over abuses perpetrated by the Catholic Church in that nation, Bono told journalists that the topic of sexual abuse “inevitably” came up during their conversation earlier that day, which lasted just over 30 minutes.
“I explained how it looks to some people like the abusers are being more protected than the victims,” he said, explaining that “you could see the pain in his face. I felt he was sincere, and he’s an extraordinary man for extraordinary times.”
Bono met with Francis at his residence in the Vatican’s Santa Marta residence in a show of support for the Scholas Occurentes foundation, an organization backed by Francis, which is dedicated to building networks of schools around the world and has launched multiple educational initiatives, placing a strong emphasis on the use of technology and sports.
He came in his capacity as co-founder of the ONE organization, which lobbies governments to change policies in favor of education and eradicating poverty.
The singer has long been involved in activism dedicated to ending poverty. His previous meeting with John Paul II in 1999 led to the now globally famous photo of the Polish pope wearing the iconic sunglasses sported by the singer almost everywhere he goes.
The meeting between the two took place on the eve of the launch of the Great Jubilee of 2000. It was about the “Drop the Debt Campaign” encouraging debt-forgiveness for impoverished nations.
According to an interview with Vatican Radio in 2012, Bono said “we would never have gotten the debts of 23 countries completely cancelled without him,” referring to John Paul II, and that the Church deserves “credible credit” for securing debt-forgiveness.
In the meeting between Bono and Francis, an agreement was signed between Scholas and ONE, which has some 10 million members worldwide, 3 million of whom are in Africa, where some 130 million girls are not able to go to school simply because they are girls.
“We haven’t figured out what we’re going to do together, but we sort of have a crush on each other,” he said, and called Francis “a radical thinker. I felt quite old-fashioned sitting next to him.”