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We just missed our chance for the first teenage, rock-star pope(s)

White smoke puffed skyward and bells pealed in Rome on Tuesday as the crimson-cloaked conclave in the Sistine Chapel announced to the globe that a new pope had been chosen. Shortly afterward, the German Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, to be known henceforth as Pope Benedict XVI, stood on the balcony of St. Peterís Basilica, submitting himself as "a simple, humble worker" to the jubilant throngs below.

It was all something of a disappointment to Joe DeGeorge and Andrew MacLeay, the 17- and 18-year-old members of the Norwood rock-and-roll duo Ed in the Refridgerators (yes, thatís how itís spelled). The last few years have seen Joe and Andrew ó who formed the band when they were 11 and 12 ó becoming keen students of the history of the Holy See. And, in conjunction with the release of their new EP, Für Pope (Eskimo Laboratories), the pair had recently announced their candidacy for the papacy.

The press releases were mailed out last week, imploring hip Catholics to contact their nearest voting cardinal and urge him to vote for a papal ticket that would "support rock in all its forms." The arguments put forth for a pop-friendly pontificate were hard to deny. "We are two baptized Catholic males," DeGeorge explained to me just hours before Ratzingerís ascension. "That makes us twice as qualified as anyone else." Arenít two guys in high school a little young to be Bishop of Rome? "Me and Andrew are 35 combined right now. And I donít think our age should be much of a factor, because weíre standing for youth. Young people are the future." The faithful yearn to be "rocked in a way theyíve never been rocked before," DeGeorge said, and Ed in the Refridgerators were the popes to do it. He promised a papacy with daily rock shows in St. Peterís Square.

While the bandís quixotic bid for the Throne of Saint Peter has ended, Für Pope remains. DeGeorge acknowledges all the "pope hype" of late, but says these songs were written before the death of John Paul II and the intrigue surrounding who would succeed him. "Song for the Pope" is a majestic, slightly mournful piano ballad expressing empathy for man whose job as Godís representative on earth is one of the most demanding around. "The Pope Song," set to gothic organ, is a recounting of the Great Schism of 1378, which resulted in two popes, Urban VI in Rome ("The Mad Pope") and Clement VII in Avignon. "Pope Dance Party" pictures a breakdancing pontiff whose worm and robot moves must be seen to be believed ("He danced like an urban Baryshnikov.... Everyone was grooviní on his moves"). And "The Pope Song (Featuring Godzilla)" is more or less self-explanatory.

Für Pope is only a teaser. The duoís full-length, Ed in the Refridgerators Get Excommunicated! (Eskimo Labs), comes out next month, and will be celebrated with a show May 14 at the Middle East. But its title is confusing. Until early this week, the duo had designs on the papacy. Why would they be banished from the very church theyíd wished to lead? "Our aim is to either become pope or to be excommunicated," DeGeorge says. "Weíre very extreme." (The bandís Web site offers tips on how you too can be kicked out of the church.)

Still, contacted immediately after Ratzinger was named 265th pope, DeGeorge seemed to hedge a little, indicating he was willing to give Benedict XVI the benefit of the doubt ó at least at first. "Hopefully, the new pope is gonna like rock music a lot more. Hopefully, the Vatican made a very good decision, and the new pope will be supportive of the Quest for Rock."

Thatís unlikely. As John Paul IIís Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger was infamous as one of the Churchís premier hardliners, nicknamed "The Enforcer," "Panzerkardinal," and "Godís Rottweiler." As pope, he probably wonít be sponsoring any Rock in Rome festivals any time soon. If itís as bad as all that, DeGeorge seems to hint, all bets are off. "Who knows?" he says. "Maybe there will be a schism again. It would be very interesting if thatís how things turn out."

Hear "Song for the Pope" and "The Pope Song" at www.edintherefridgerators.com.

Issue Date: April 22 - 28, 2005
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