Pope Francis awards film composer Ennio Morricone

Rome, Italy, Apr 15, 2019 / 12:29 pm (CNA).- Oscar-winning composer Ennio Morricone was awarded the Gold Medal of the Pontificate Monday for his artistic accomplishments.

The Vatican told the National Catholic Register that Pope Francis awarded the 90-year-old composer because of his “extraordinary artistic work in the sphere of music, universal language of peace, solidarity and spirituality.”

The award was presented April 15 by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, in Rome’s Sant’Agnese in Agone church in Piazza Navona.

The ceremony included a performance of the “St. John Passion” by Johann Sebastian Bach, which was written for Holy Week in 1724. The work recounts the Passion and Death of Jesus as told in the Gospel of St. John chapters 18 and 19, and is performed by an orchestra, choir, chorale, and six soloists.

Morricone, a Rome native, has composed over 100 classical works and over 400 movie and television soundtracks, among them the score for the 1986 film “The Mission,” about a Spanish Jesuit missionary in South America.

For “The Mission,” Morricone was nominated for an Academy Award and won a Golden Globe for Best Original Score.

The composer is known internationally for his soundtracks to popular Spaghetti Westerns from the 1960s and ‘70s, such as “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” “Once Upon a Time in the West,” and “For a Few Dollars More.”

In 2016 he received an Academy Award for his score to “The Hateful Eight,” a film by Quentin Tarantino.

Morricone also composed a Mass in honor of Pope Francis, “Missa Papae Francisci,” for the 200th anniversary of the restoration of the Jesuits, which debuted in Rome in June 2015.

Morricone and his wife met Pope Francis before the concert, though the composer could not get the pope to attend. He later asked if “Pope Francis doesn’t like music,” in a 2018 interview with Italian daily, Il Corriere della Sera. “Has he given it up for Lent or something?” he quipped.

Noting that he cried when he met Francis, Morricone said: “Don’t get the idea that I burst into tears at every opportunity; those were the only two times I have ever cried – when I first watched ‘The Mission’ and when I met the pope.”

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