Andrea Bocelli sings before Pope Francis' meeting with participants in the Renewal of the Spirit meeting in St. Peter's Square in 2015. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Faith is believing in the power of good: Bocelli

By  George P. Matysek Jr., OSV News
  • February 23, 2024

For one brief moment at the outset of the pandemic, the hopes of the world seemed concentrated on a single man standing alone outside the massive Duomo di Milano in Italy.

Andrea Bocelli, one of the most acclaimed tenors of his time, kept his arms at his sides and remained motionless as his powerful voice filled the cathedral’s empty square with the familiar strains of “Amazing Grace.”

Online, more than 2.8 million peak concurrent viewers around the globe watched the live Easter performance via YouTube in what would become the largest simultaneous audience for a classical music livestream in YouTube history. Afterward, the video would receive more than 28 million views in the first 24 hours.

Bocelli — who sang “Panis Angelicus,” “Ave Maria,” “Sancta Maria” and “Domine Deus” inside the cathedral prior to the event’s dramatic outdoor conclusion — had promoted the nearly half-hour performance as “Music for Hope” at a time when cities were shut down and many people were losing their lives to the illness every day.

“I didn’t actually feel it as a concert performance,” Bocelli said. “It was an occasion to pray together at such a painful time, and thus reaffirmed the redeeming strength of the Christian message. It was very touching to be able to feel during the forced distancing so much unity and brotherhood — a truly unforgettable experience.”

Bocelli said faith is at the heart of who he is as a person and a performer. He described his faith as a “priceless gift” which helps drive the selection of his musical repertoire and his charitable outreach.

“Whoever has this same gift improves their own life and the world around them,” he explained. “I believe that having faith means believing in the power of good, and at every crossroad choosing the road that leads to it.”

Music itself is a potential expression of the sacred and of faith in the transcendent, Bocelli said.

“When we touch our spiritual chords, we create a bridge across which to access, at any time and in all simplicity, what is hidden behind the veil of everyday life,” he said.

Bocelli was not always so devoted to his faith. Although he found inspiration as a child worshipping in a small Catholic church in the Tuscan village where he was born and raised, he became agnostic as a teen — a decision he attributed to the “arrogance of youth.”

"Later, however, at the first fundamental turning point in my adult life (that is, the moment I decided to believe or not to believe, because there clearly isn’t a third option), I chose the way that seemed the most logical — that my intellect, for however limited, saw as the path to follow without alternatives,” he said.

Bocelli was born with congenital glaucoma. When a soccer ball struck him in the head at age 12, he lost all vision completely.

Fourteen years ago, Bocelli appeared in a YouTube video outlining his thankfulness to his mother for choosing life. Seated at a piano, he recalled how his mother’s doctor suggested an abortion in anticipation of her son’s disability.

“But the young brave wife decided not to abort, and the child was born,” Bocelli said in the video.

He added that he hoped sharing the story would encourage “many mothers who sometimes find themselves in difficult situations,” but who want to “save the life of their baby.”

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