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June 30, 2005


Devin Rose

When I saw U2 in Austin during their Elevation tour in November of 2001, Bono began the concert by genuflecting and making the sign of the cross!

Jack Smith

At last year's Catholic Press Association in DC, Bono sent a video message thanking Catholic journalists for raising attention to Africa.
He said, "If I weren't what I am now - a famous rock star - I'd be a Catholic journalist."


Isn't Bono a member of the Church of Ireland?


I'm a U2 fan and guess have always assumed he was Catholic. Don't know for sure.

Here's a joke I remember from one of the late-night talk shows when Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict the 16th. Footage is shown of the new Pope standing on the balcony smiling down on the throngs of people below in the square. Benedict thinks, "So this is what it feels like to be Bono."


I guess I always assumed he was Catholic. I think it was because of his reverence in an audience with John Paul II, perhaps it was just good Irish manners.


I know that at least in the early 80s, 3 of the 4 U2 members belonged to a non-denominational church called Shalom. I also understand that he is the son of a mixed Protestant/Catholic marriage. Beyond that, especially in regards to his present church affiliation, I cannot say.

He did sing a couple years ago, in Acrobat, "I would break bread and wine if there was a church i could recieve in."

Sounds non-denominational to me, but he does seem to have a heavy Catholic influence.

Fr. Shawn O'Neal

Bono said about Pope John Paul II, "I like the Pope. The Pope is dope."

It seem to me that Bono is not a practicing Catholic, but as a result of his Dad and because he lived in Ireland, there would be some Catholic things that he would know simply as a result of social osmosis. Heck, a Dublin Jew would know what that bell-ringing is on RTE Radio 1 at noon and 6pm. (The Angelus, btw)

Bigger question: Are we ever going to see the photos of Pope John Paul wearing Bono's Fly shades?

One member of the crew who is Catholic: U2 tour soundboard guru extraordinaire Joe O'Herlihy. I remember a cute thing I read after Easter 2001 within which he looked for an Easter Mass while on a tour stop in Seattle.


Hey, Chris wrote everything I was going to! ;-) I have put the question into Rocco over at Whispers in the Loggia, perhaps he knows.

Either way, as a commentor at Get Religion said, Bono is still way cool.


Barnes was simply making the same mistake many do - assuming Bono's Catholic because he's Irish. As a huge long time U2 fan here's the lowdown on the whole band:

Bono (real name Paul Hewson): Father was Catholic, and Mother was Protestant - a VERY uncommon mixed marriage in the Ireland of the late 40s when they were married, and one that certainly caused some friction among their families. Bono's father, however, thought it best that the two boys be raised in the religion of their mother, reasoning that she was their primary caretaker (this was Ireland in the 50s and early 60s, after all, so he had a less hands-ons notion of Fatherhood than most do now!). Being Irish, however, Bono couldn't help but absorb the Catholic cultural atmosphere of Ireland, and he has at times spoken of his "Catholic guilt" and described himself as "half-Catholic, half-Protestant" (which once led his wife, with whom he has four kids, to quip to a reporter, "I guess we know which half is Catholic!"). Also, Bono's mother died when he was only 14, and seems thereafter to have drifted a bit among various churches and evangelical groups, like the Shalom Group.

The Edge (guitar, real name Dave Evans) and Adam Clayton (bass): both raised Protestant. Edge was actually born in England to a family of Welsh extraction that moved to Ireland when he was still fairly young, though I forget his exact age at the time. Adam was born in England to English parents. His father was an RAF pilot and then took up commercial flying after leaving the military. His family also moved to Ireland when Adam was relatively young, his father having taken a piloting job with Aer Lingus. It has also wrongly been reported in some poorly researched media stories that Adam is the sole "unbeliever" in the group, which isn't true. He was just never part of the fervent Shalom Group evengelicalism of the other three and keeps his religious views more private.

Larry Mullen (drums): the only actual full-blooded Irish Catholic in the group! Like Bono, however, he lost his mother in his teens, and though never losing his faith in God, seems to have drifted from the Church and was, along with Bono and Edge, part of the Shalom Group.

Another odd fact about the group is that, despite their relatively varied backgrounds, they all met at the Mount Temple Comprehensive School in Dublin. This was a non-denominational school, which at the time it was founded was very unusual in Ireland. I don't know if it was actually a "private" school, though it was a voluntary alternative to the traditional state schools, which at the time were sectarian. Though non-denominational, I believe Mount Temple was majority Protestant, which makes Mullen's attendance there at the time even more unusual.

For a time, during the recording of their second album, Bono, Edge, and Larry considered scuttling the band, unsure whether they could reconcile their committment to Christianity and the Shalom Group with the world and lifestyle of rock 'n roll. Obviously we know how they decided that quandry! Soon thereafter, all three actually left the Shalom Group, which was tending toward a sort of intense fundamentalism and other unsavory tendencies. Though again it has wrongly been reported in some media that they "lost" their faith, this not true - as any look at interview archives (and lyrics) will attest. They simply left the Shalom Group not Christianity as such, and while all still will identify themselves as Christians if asked, they all also seem to be what one might call "post-denominational" and not praticing members of any actual institutional church.

All in all, it's a rather odd mix of religious and ethnic backgrounds for the most recognizable "Irish" band in the world, and one that many people seem unaware of. I think a lot of casual fans and lazy media just assume they must be Catholic since they come from Ireland.

Sorry for such a long post. As you can tell, I'm a huge fan, and that's probably more than you ever wanted to know about the background of U2!


Bono's was the product of a mixed marriage. He went to non-Catholic schools at a time when they were essentially the only schools in the Free State.

Mark T-K

Dennis, what a great & informative post. I always wondered what their religious backgrounds were. Thanks!

Susan Peterson

When you post these things maybe there could be a little explaination of who the person is you are talking about. The only Bono I have heard of the the Sonny Bono of Sonny and Cher. They had a TV show a long time ago and latter got divorced. I never saw the show but they were in newspapers and on the covers of tabloids so it was impossible not to have heard of them.
If this isn't the same Bono, who is it?
Susan Peterson


Great background, Dennis, very informative. My U2 story: a bunch of friends were in Ireland one summer, just before "Boy", maybe 79 or 80? Can't remember, but it was back when he was still "Bono Vox"! (I was into every underground, indie UK band back then so I knew of them before they were popular). It was also back when the Hewsons were still listed in the telephone book. So my friend (now husband) actually called their number, asked for Paul...and the person picking up was just starting to understand that maybe they shouldn't be listed in the phone book anymore! "Uh, ummm, oh, he's not home right now...." "That's OK, just tell him his friend Gerry from America called!" Silly, I know, but a big thrill for a bunch of young fans. I did get to see their first NYC appearance, IIRC, at The Palladium. They opened with a bagpiper and then segued into "I'm a Believer". Which I didn't get then. But I do now.


I'm a HUGE U2 fan and as far as i know, Bono was raised a Protestant. His dad was Catholic, his mom was Protestant although I'm not sure of the denomination. His parents agreed that their kids would go with their mom to church although Bono has said that he occaisionally went to his dad's church with him.

So unless he has renounced it, Bono would I guess technically be Protestant still. I believe that he prefers to consider himself non-denominational. I think he takes from all traditions in all sincerity. So if he genuflects or makes the sign of the cross, I dont think he sees any contradiction between that and anything else he may do in devotion that might be more protestant.

I think he just loves the whole of the tradition and he's neutral on chossing sides. I also think that having a tremendous admiration for JPII as Bono does doesn't mean you have to be Catholic. I had that kind of admiration and love for JPII, myself. He was a hard man not to love and adore. And I say that as someone who came to that conclusion kicking and screaming



While I am being a fount of information...

I also remember hearing that the Edge was raised Presbyterian.

That is about all that I know about the denominations of the other members.

For some reason I can't remember Larry's? Does anyone here know?



Did you read Dennis' post? It might be useful to read through the comments before you post yourself.

chris K

Dennis and Peggy 35, just in case you might be a leetle bit interested, my cousin, Rick "Dallas" Schoo, is the guitar tech for "The Edge". I was kinda surprised that he even had a bit of a fan club! He used to be the same for Jimmy Buffet and I (don't tell) got to try the drums a little before an appearance in the Philly area some years ago! He's been permanently with U2 for many years now and the family hardly sees him...with all their world travel, etc. "Dallas" was at least raised Catholic.



Soooooo sorry.

Was that really necessary??


Thanks Dennis for such an informative post! Very interesting to read too. :)


Most post on point. I have my own problems with Bono but that's not germane to the discussion. Remember hearing Bono say once once on the Late Late Show that he was inspired by John Paul, Mother Teresa and Bishop Eamon Casey. Two of three is a better rate than Tim Duncan from the charity stripe.


Susan, I'm out of the loop too.

I think the Bono under discussion here is a musician with (formerly with?) a band (former band?) called U2. No relation to Sonny Bono so far as I can tell, but they might be brothers for all I know.

I didn't know who Tom Cruise was either, much less Katie What's-Her-Name. I'm kind of out of it, as you can tell.

Tim F.

While maybe not Catholic (yet?) he is certainly sympathetic to the Church. I read on the web about the inspiration for one of the songs on the new cd. The song is called “Crumbs from Your Table.” The story is , Bono was frustrated in trying to raise money for African relief from an Evangelical Church in America. (Not sure which. Not meaning to bash them). One lyric in the song goes regarding a struggling AIDS hospice in East Africa

“Where you live should not decide, whether you live or whether you die”

“Three to a bed, Sister Ann she said.”
“Dignity Passes by…… “

Sister Ann is apparently a Catholic Religious Sister Bono met doing God’s work under difficult circumstances in Africa.

Tim F.

I may have posted this in the past but I’ll note it again. April 1st in Anaheim CA. My wife and I attended the U2 concert. Awesome location. Up front a few yards from The Edge and even closer to Bono when he walked out on the catwalk behind those of us lucky to get admission into the ellipsis, (pit?). down by the stage. What could be better? Free tickets, air fare, and two nights at a nice hotel, all because my wife entered a radio contest and wrote a letter explaining how I was the “biggest U2 fan”. Politics notwithstanding.

At the end of the concert after singing Yahweh off the new cd “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” Bono dedicated an oldie “40” (based on psalm 40 I have read). To Pope John Paul II, “a great friend of the poor and a cool wearer of fly shades”. After finishing the song Bono hung a rosary on the microphone, knelt and kissed it and then the band walked off the stage. It was quite a moment. Our beloved John Paul the Great passed away the next day on April 2nd.

I like Bono. He has been married to his wife for 20 some years. 4 children. He writes amazing lyrics. And he is short like me. I’ll give him a pass for being a celebrity.

Tim F.

Wow. I just read the link. It talks about the rosary on the microphone, but it references the Pope's death. They did have another show in Anaheim on the 2nd.


I seem to remember in interview with Bono where he said that if he attended church, he'd likely go to one like Glide Memorial in San Francisco. Does anyone else remember this?


At the second Anaheim show on April 2, Bono dedicated Miracle Drug to the Pope, as he did in LA on April 6. (I have several shows from the current tour on disc). And yes, the lyrics of "40", which was for a long time their traditional show closer, are taken from Psalm 40 (and also Psalm 6).

The Rosary was one that he has been wearing for several years that was acutally given to him by JPII (I'm not sure of the propriety of actually wearing a Rosary as a necklace, but I think his heart's in the right place)

About the political angle of U2: while they could be certainly be described as left-leaning, they have never been as knee-jerk leftist as a lot of their rock 'n roll and celebrity brethren. You won't hear Bono making MoveOn.org or DemocraticUnderground style rants against Bush, the GOP, the Right in general, or the military - and certainly no anti-Americanism. Some say this is just because they want to sell records and so hold back from saying what they really feel. But other celbrities rant about the Right and Bush all the time and don't seem to suffer lower sales. I think his work on debt relief especially has made Bono more nuanced in his approach to politics. Having to work with actual politicians on both sides of the aisle has innoculated him from some of the knee-jerk leftism common among celbrities - most of whom just spout-off, but don't actually do the kind of grunt work he has. He's on record actually praising Jesse Helms and Bush - for which he says some of his celbrity friends nearly ostracised him! He also worked closely with John Kasich when he was first starting to make the rounds in DC, and said he was blown away that one of the first things Kasich asked him was whcih Radiohead album he preferred - The Bends or OK Computer. A conservative republican Congressman interested in Radiohead! Bono said Thom Yorke was shocked when he told him. Also, during the current tour, Bono has been dedicaing Running to Stand Still to American and British troops throughout the world - again not something you're likely to hear from your average left-leaning celebrity or rock star. The band's chief security man is also a former US soldier who served in Vietnam, and Adam's (bassist) father used to be an RAF pilot, so I think U2 has a different understanding and outlook on military people than a lot of other left-leaning celebrities seem to with their knee-jerk anti-military, anti-Amercianism.


He spoke at a Glide worship service recently.

Tim F.


Good points you bring up.


I like Bono... He writes amazing lyrics.

According to a Vanity Fair feature on U2 a few months ago, Bono not only writes the lyrics, but usually comes up with the basic melody lines as well, though all of them contribute in shaping that into the final product. I had previously assumed that The Edge was the tunesmith of the group. The article didn't say if that was a recent development or if that's the way it's always been, but a Daniel Lanois anecdote on how "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" came about supports the claim (in that case, the inspiration was some Appalachian tune that Bono heard Lanois humming to himself). I've heard other sources (circa "Pop") say that Bono and The Edge wrote the songs on that, but maybe that was because Clayton and Mullen were busy with the "Mission Impossible" soundtrack or something like that. I'm sure others would be able to say.

I'm less enthusiastic about Bono's political endeavors. I think colonialism would do a lot more help for Africa, and a lot less damage than debt relief (as it's currently understood).


I was a fan of U2 in the 80s. Marriage, babies, and important economic decisions like choosing to buy diapers over CDs put me out of the loop with their music for a span of years. I became reacquainted with them through an evangelical friend who let me borrow his copy of "All That You Can't Leave Behind."

I had always known they had a slight Christian bent, but slight is not the word. Their lyrics are amazing, and their meaning is there for all who choose to see and hear. The photo on the cover of "All" shows them standing in an airport that has a sign that says: J 33:3. This is a reference to a verse in Jeremiah: "Call to me, and I will answer you; I will tell to you things great beyond reach of your knowledge." I found an interview with Bono in which he says J 33:3 is God's telephone number. In the song "Walk On" from that album, which was written for a dying friend, he sings one of my favorite lines, "You're packing a suitcase for a place that has to be believed to be seen."

And the song "Vertigo" from their most recent album (familiar from the early Ipod commercials) is clearly about Christ's temptation in the desert--and the heights of the parapet of the temple and the mountain. In the background, Bono whispers "All of this, all of this can be yours...." I could go on.

Behind me on a shelf rest two tickets for their concert in Cleveland in December. I can hardly wait. However, I am almost more excited by the thought of what their next album might bring. Anyone want to bet that it will contain a tribute to JPII?

BTW, I would label myself a conservative in both religion and politics; however, I have absolutely no problem with Bono's political/social work. He is one of the few celebrities who knows what he is talking about, and he has the faith to back up his words.

Sara Lemen

In reply to Bono kneeling/genuflecting or making the sign of the cross - that doesn't mean he's catholic. It is not uncommon for protestants in Ireland (Church of Ireland) or even U.S. Espicopalians to genuflect and make the sign of the cross either. Roman Catholic and Irish Protestants are very similar in practice - only majoy difference is the latter does not report to the Bishop of Rome.

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