LISBON (Reuters) - Parish priest by day, DJ by night: Guilherme Peixoto is not your typical cleric.
In fact, music is so important to him that last year, during a trip to the Vatican, he asked Pope Francis to bless his headphones.
So when the coronavirus hit his tiny northern Portuguese town, he knew exactly how to help the faithful ward off isolation blues.
Every Friday and Sunday night, 45-year-old Peixoto swaps his vestments for a T-shirt, turns up the volume and presses play on Facebook to livestream some of his favourite tunes.
“Right now it’s so important to use social media to bring a bit of joy into people’s lives,” Peixoto told Reuters. “And people seem happy when they see a priest playing music online.”
A lot of effort goes into Peixoto’s livestream events. There are strobe and fairy lights, a turntable, mixers, a microphone and sparkling, colourful decorations.
“Thank you priest for the great music,” said a viewer last Friday. “Thank you for lifting our spirits,” another wrote online.
Peixoto also shares awareness videos to encourage people to stay indoors and healthy, and celebrates online masses, including funerals.
“Although churches are closed, I want to let people know there are many ways to pray.”
The online events attract thousands of people, old and young, stuck at home due to the coronavirus, which has infected more than 11,000 people and led to over 300 deaths in Portugal so far.
Portugal is in its third week of a nationwide state of emergency, which has restricted people’s movements and closed churches, schools and other non-essential services.
Once the outbreak ends and life returns to normal, Peixoto will be able to DJ in person for his community again, as he has done for over a decade in the warm summer months.
“People are often the ones challenging me to continue to innovate,” said Peixoto, explaining that he took a DJ course a few years ago to improve his skills.
Peixoto may be the only priest using Facebook to DJ, but other members of the clergy have turned to social media to stay connected, celebrate mass and engage with the young.
“Priests are now starting to understand the importance of these channels,” Peixoto said. “This (pandemic) could revolutionise the church - it absolutely could.”
Reporting by Catarina Demony, Editing by Victoria Waldersee and Mike Collett-White
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