Tango dancers gather in Vatican to celebrate Pope’s birthday

It’s believed Pope Francis was once a nifty mover on the Tango dance floor

Hundreds of Tango dancers from around the world were among the well-wishers gathered in the Vatican to celebrate the Pope's birthday. Video: Reuters

 

It’s not every day you see hundreds of couples dancing the evocative Tango in St. Peter’s Square. However, that was the scene at midday on Wednesday in the Vatican as Tangeros from around the world celebrated Pope Francis’ 78th birthday.

Minutes earlier, the Pope had concluded his weekly public audience by wishing everyone a Happy Christmas.

Given the Pope’s attachment to his native land, Argentina, he may well have regretted not waiting to watch this particular living birthday present.

Inevitably, the vast majority of the dancers were Italian Tango enthusiasts who had travelled from all over the country to pay this tribute to the Pope. Fortunately for them, and the 40,000 or so tourists gathered in St Peter’s Square, the weather was bright and sunny even if the 14 degrees of a Roman December morning seems far removed from the heat of Argentine summer nights.

Rather than wearing sexy tango gear, the dancers were out in winter coats and long boots and were distinguished only by silk neck scarves.

By all accounts, Wednesday’s dancing session came with full papal approval. Informed that various enthusiasts wanted to celebrate his birthday with a rendition of Argentina’s iconic dance, Pope Francis gave the go-ahead for one of the most unusual Milongas ever seen.

The Pope is reported to be a particular fan of the music of Astor Piazzolla, music which resounded across the full width of the most celebrated square in Christendom on Wednesday morning.

On top of that, there are those who say he was once a nifty mover on the Tango dance floor himself. Papal decorum and the passing of the years may have denied him that possibility, but he is certain to have been much touched by Wednesday’s tribute.

He was also greeted in St Peter’s Square with thousands of birthday wishes that were shouted at him as he travelled around on his Popemobile. The Pope repeatedly stopped to kiss babies and even to sip at a glass of mate, the traditional Argentine popular drink.

“I just thought it would be a bit of fun to dance the tango in his honour...we know that the Pope loves this music and we wanted to pay him a tribute...We started to talk about it and the thing went viral and we ended up with 3,000 people from all over Italy. We’re not dancing for ourselves but for the Pope”, said the Milonga organiser, Cristina Camorani.