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By Rick Schindler

Just when it seemed that the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics around the world — who cold-calls people spontaneouslydrives a donated used car, urged Catholics not to judge gay people and takes awesome selfies — could not conceivably get any cooler, he has invited the Godmother of Punk to perform at the Vatican.

Patti Smith, who rejected organized religion in her teens and once sang, "Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine," will sing at the official Vatican Christmas concert on Dec. 13.

Pope Francis, Patti Smith
Patti Smith is greeted by Pope Francis at the end of his weekly general audience, in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, April 10, 2013.Today

The pontiff and the punk pioneer met in April 2013 when Smith attended Pope Francis's weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square. Though she says she is not a Catholic, the 67-year-old Smith found Francis "very interesting" and said she "likes him a lot."

Apparently the feeling is mutual, because Smith is booked for the Concerto di Natale along with Cleveland-born gospel singer CeCe Rogers and Sister Cristina Scuccia, the Ursuline nun (and Madonna fan) who won this year's season of the Italian edition of "The Voice." The concert will be broadcast live on television.

Not everyone shares the pope's enthusiasm, though. Smith is also slated for a benefit concert nearby just a few days earlier, on Dec. 9 at the Basilica of San Giovanni Maggiore in Naples, but a Catholic group called Portosalvo has asked that the concert be canceled, calling it "blasphemous." Given the pope's support of Smith, it's likely the show will go on.

Smith had strong exposure to the Bible in her childhood and has frequently employed religious imagery in her art, which includes poetry and photography as well as music. She also wrote and performed "Mercy Is," a lullaby that is a key element of the controversial biblical epic "Noah."

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