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Singer Sinéad O’Connor explains in new memoir that time she ripped up a photo of the pope on ‘SNL’
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Singer Sinéad O’Connor explains in new memoir that time she ripped up a photo of the pope on ‘SNL’

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"Rememberings" by Sinéad O'Connor (HMH Books)

Singer Sinéad O’Connor is almost as famous for ripping up a photo of Pope John Paul II in 1992 while guest hosting “Saturday Night Live” as she is for her music.

The world was scandalized, though in later years she proved to have been ahead of her time by explaining she had been protesting sexual abuse by clergy.

“Holy Terror,” proclaimed the next day’s New York Daily News front page. The move, during a performance of Bob Marley’s song “War,” marked her as a controversial figure for years.

Seven years after ripping up the photo, in 1999, she was ordained as a priest of the Catholic Latin Tridentine Church. About a decade after that she announced she had converted and become Muslim.

She is now apparently getting more in-depth about the move that sent the world reeling in shock in her new memoir, "Rememberings," excerpted this week in Rolling Stone.

The photo, O’Connor explained, had been on her mother’s wall, and she’d taken it down on the day she died.

“I took down from her bedroom wall the only photo she ever had up there, which was of Pope John Paul II,” O’Connor wrote, in the excerpt published in Rolling Stone. “It was taken when he visited Ireland in 1979. ‘Young people of Ireland,’ he had said after making a show of kissing the ground at the Dublin airport like the flight had been overly frightening, ‘I love you.’ What a load of claptrap. Nobody loved us. Not even God. Sure, even our mothers and fathers couldn’t stand us.”

Added to that, ahead of her “SNL” appearance, the Irish-English singer had been “pissed off” after reading accounts in Irish newspapers about children abused by priests, but whose accounts were dismissed by police and bishops, she recounted.

“My intention had always been to destroy my mother’s photo of the pope,” she wrote. “It represented lies and liars and abuse.”

What she wasn’t sure of was how. The idea for that came from a 1978 stunt when Bob Geldof had shredded a a photo of Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta on “Top of the Pops” because of the inordinate amount of time he felt their “Grease” hit “Summer Nights” had remained atop the charts before being bumped by his Boomtown Rats’ single “Rat Trap,” O’Connor recounted.

She rehearsed the number with another photo so that no one knew what she was going to do. After she tore it up there was just shocked silence. NBC banned her for life. But she has no regrets.

“Everyone wants a pop star, see?” she wrote. “But I am a protest singer. I just had stuff to get off my chest. I had no desire for fame.... I don’t define success as having a good name or being wealthy. I define success by whether I keep the contract I made with the Holy Spirit before I made one with the music business.”

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