LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It was like any other performance for artist, songwriter, producer and St. Stephen Baptist Church’s faith leader Jason Clayborn, but in Dec. 2023, he experienced a moment he will never forget.

What You Need To Know

  • In Dec. 2023, Jason Clayborn, a faith leader at St. Stephen Baptist Church in Louisville, traveled to Italy with the Virginia State Gospel Choir as a special guest 

  • Their first show in Italy was at the Vatican performing, "We Are the World" and "Oh Happy Day" for the Christmas special where Clayborn was then able to met Pope Francis

  • Clayborn said it proves to him that music is a universal language. 

“We got off stage, someone said, ‘Jason, I’m taking you to meet the pope tomorrow,’” said Clayborn.

Clayborn traveled to Italy with the Virginia State Gospel Choir as a special guest. Touring through Hungary and Switzerland, their first show was in Italy at the Vatican to perform “We Are the World” and “Oh Happy Day” for the Christmas special. 

“And I was like, okay, cool. I said, Wait a minute. The pope, like the pope, you know, you said the pope, might be another pope on the side, you know,” joked Clayborn.

Clayborn says the news didn’t register until he was minutes away from meeting the pope.

“I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, I’m at the Vatican. The pope is coming in, you know? Okay, cool. He’ll talk and we’ll see him. We could take pictures.’ Then they had everybody stand up. I was like, ‘You’re going to shake his hand.’ And I was like, ‘This is crazy,’” said Clayborn.

Still in disbelief, Clayborn says, being from Louisville, he wasn’t expecting the opportunity, but it was an honor.

“Just to have that moment, to be able to meet him and shake his hand and I’ll never forget it, you know, and my family and people around me were like, yo, not only did he do all of these things, but he actually met the pope and I have pictures to prove it. So, you know, it’s really cool,” said Clayborn.

The majority of the churches where Clayborn and the choir sang were Catholic churches. Clayborn says he could see from the stage the pope enjoyed their singing.

“He had a smile on his face and, you know, the whole time, I mean, cheese and from ear to ear. But it’s just to know that he enjoyed those moments,” said Clayborn.

Clayborn says it is a true testament that music is the universal language. He attributes his successes and opportunities like this to working hard and staying humble.

“As long as you continue to work hard and just wait for the Lord to position you where he wants you to be,” said Clayborn.