A Brooklyn-born Jew is an unlikely candidate for musical director to the Pope.
But Gilbert Levine, who had never met a Catholic priest until 1987, not only works for the Vatican but counts Pope John Paul II as a friend.
In an interview to be broadcast on 60 Minutes Sunday at 7 p.m., Levine tells correspondent Bob Simon he came to the Vatican's attention when he was working in the Pope's native land, Poland. In 1987, when he became musical director for Krakow Philharmonic, he was introduced to the city's archbishop.
Before long, he was invited to the Vatican to meet John Paul II. A few months later, he was tapped to conduct a concert commemorating the 10th anniversary of his pontificate.
Levine describes how over the years he has become friends with the pontiff. Levine has conducted many Vatican musical events for him, the first of which began with a "pope joke" told by the pontiff himself.
Levine recalls he was rehearsing at the Vatican for the 10th anniversary concert when the Pope approached him. "[Pope John Paul II] says, 'Have you had enough rehearsal?' I said, 'What do you mean?' [The pope] said, 'I heard the pope is coming tonight,'" Levine tells Simon.