, ROME, Italy, Dec 17 – Hundreds of couples performed a tango on St Peter’s square on Tuesday in a birthday treat for Pope Francis, who hails from Argentina, the birthplace of the celebrated sultry dance.
With the recent gloomy weather giving way to sparkling sunshine and an azure sky, an even higher authority than the pontiff appeared to have given his blessing to the celebrations to mark the 78th birthday of Francis, formerly Jose Bergoglio.
The dancers, from all over Italy and further afield, were among 13,000 people at St Peter’s for the pope’s weekly public audience.
Non-dancing well-wishers came bearing gifts including a birthday cake and mate, a traditional Argentinian drink, before listening to the leader of the world’s Catholics issue a solemn condemnation of recent terrorist atrocities in Pakistan, Yemen and Australia.
Around midday, the dancing started. “Happy Birthday, Pope Francis! Let’s widen out this circle,” shouted Cristina Carmorani, a dance teacher from Conventello, near Ravenna in northeastern Italy.
It was Carmorani who came up with the idea for the birthday tango and launched an appeal for couples to come and do it though her “Tango for Francis” Facebook initiative.
More than 3,200 people had signed up to take part, she had said, with most of the volunteers elderly couples.