The voice of Maria Jose Santiago and the chords of Paco Cepero’s guitar filled Paul VI Hall on Monday with flamenco and applause, in the presence of the Pope and of some 5,000 gypsies from around the world.
The performance marked a before and after in her life, the singer told ZENIT.
“This has been the most important thing I’ve lived in my life, the greatest, there is nothing more. Because I have sung in the presence of very important people, in many theaters, in many countries, but this gift that God gave me, has been a very strong gift. God said to me ‘I am with you and I will not abandon you,’” she said, still emotional after the meeting.
She also acknowledged that sometimes she questions herself because “I am a type of artist that follows a line that magazines of the heart aren’t interested in. And if you do not feature in the magazines and television stations, it’s as if you didn’t exist, although I continue doing my concerts.”
Therefore, Maria Jose Santiago said she often asks herself: “My God, what do you want from me? If you have given me a gift …”
They are very human temptations, she noted. But today, “He has given me a very great gift,” she said with tears in her eyes.
It was also memorable because of the number of people in the Hall, a community of thousands of gypsies from all over the world, Santiago reflected.
“It was important, of course, because of the Holy Father, but also because it was something collective. I don’t think I’ve received more congratulation from people that don’t speak my language in my life. Bishops, priests, nuns, the whole world. They have even asked me to pray for their families!” she remarked.
The Flamenco singer mentioned that she has a first cousin who is like a sister to her; she is a nun of the Sisters of the Cross. And mentioning the recent canonization of Mother Maria de la Purisima, of this same religious Institute, and of the concert she gave for the Sisters, she said “these have been very exciting weeks.”
Santiago had a message for the gypsy community: “You must follow Blessed Cefirino’s example. And love one another, love one another a lot, leaving quarrels and complexes behind. And be Jesus Christ on earth because we are part of Him.”
Her husband, who represents her and who accompanied her, said that today they lived “something very lovely, very overwhelming.” And Maria Jose’s greeting to the Holy Father was “very natural,” although at the beginning she did not know how to approach him. In the end, it was Francis himself who embraced her.