HIS HOLINESS, POPE JOHN RAUL II, looked out over the upturned faces of 300,000 youths crowded into Bologna’s fairgrounds. “The answer to your questions about life,” he assured them at last week’s 23rd National Eucharistic Congress, “is blowing in the wind.” An odd homage to Bob Dylan’s classic lyric, given that the pop poet has said he finds spiritual guidance not from religious leaders, but in the songs of Hank Williams. Still, despite objections from Vatican critics, one of whom labeled Dylan, 56—who wrote “Blowin’ in the Wind” 34 years ago—a communist, the Pope reportedly chose the aging rocker to perform.
In turn, Dylan, in a black cowboy suit and beige Stetson, appeared moved as he clasped hands onstage with the 77-year-old ailing Pontiff and accepted a gift of a mother-of-pearl rosary. After renditions of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” Dylan sang a reverential “Forever Young” as the Pope made his exit, soon followed by the singer. Without the Pope, “the spell was broken,” said an observer, suggesting that for the thousands who chanted his name, the Pope was the true headliner.