PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A woman with plenty of experience tangling with the Vatican has given Pope Francis her endorsement during his first U.S. visit.
At her concert Thursday night in Philadelphia, where Francis is scheduled this weekend to make the last stop of his tour, a tongue-in-cheek Madonna dedicated a section of her show to him.
She later announced: "Rules are for fools. That's why I like the new pope. He seems very open-minded."
It was just one of many comments about Francis at a concert that featured lots of religious imagery, including female performers wearing nuns' habits — and little else — pole dancing on crosses.
"I've been excommunicated from the Catholic Church three times. It shows that the Vatican cares deeply," she joked.
"Since Popey-wopey is on his way over here, I want to dedicate this song to him," she said before launching into a heartfelt version of "La Vie en Rose."
Also: "The pope is stalking me," she said, noting she recently performed in New York, where Francis is until Saturday morning. "Either he's a copycat or he's secretly in love with me."
If Madonna needed further evidence the pope is following in her footsteps, it was announced Friday that Francis is releasing a pop-rock album called "Wake Up!" Available for pre-order on iTunes, it will feature excerpts from papal speeches in multiple languages.
Francis premiered the first single — "Wake Up! Go! Go! Forward!" — Friday on Rolling Stone's website.
Madonna, raised Roman Catholic in Michigan, has a long history of running afoul of the Vatican. Her 1989 video for "Like A Prayer" contained imagery that outraged religious leaders, including stigmata and burning crosses. Her seminal 1990 "Blond Ambition" tour included simulated masturbation and brought condemnation from the Vatican. And in her 2006 "Confessions" tour, she staged a mock crucifixion only a few miles from the Vatican.
That doesn't necessarily mean the Vatican has entirely banished the singer. In December, Italy's singing nun, Sister Cristina Scuccia, met Francis and presented him with a copy of her first CD, which features a remake of Madonna's "Like a Virgin."
Scuccia had won the Italian edition of "The Voice" earlier that year. The Italian Bishops' Conference criticized the song's appearance on the CD, saying it was a commercial ploy.
Jeff McMillan can be reached at http://twitter.com/jeffmcmillanap