Ennio Morricone, composer honored by Pope Francis, dies at 91 

Ennio Morricone, an Oscar-winning Italian composer honored by Pope Francis, has died at the age of 91. (CNA)

ROME (CNA) -- Ennio Morricone, an Oscar-winning Italian composer honored by Pope Francis, has died at the age of 91.

The Italian news agency Ansa reported July 6 that Morricone died in a Rome hospital Monday after he was admitted days earlier with a fractured femur. Morricone’s lawyer Giorgio Assumma said that the composer died at dawn “with the comfort of faith.”

A Rome native, he composed more than 100 classical works and 400 movie and television soundtracks. 

He is perhaps best known in the Catholic world for creating the soundtrack to “The Mission,” the 1986 movie depicting Spanish Jesuits’ efforts to protect indigenous people from enslavement in 18th-century South America. 

Morricone achieved international fame in the 1960s with his work on a trilogy of Westerns -- “A Fistful of Dollars,” “For a Few Dollars More,” and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” -- directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood.

He won an honorary Academy Award in 2007, and an Oscar for Best Original Score for Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” in 2016.

Pope Francis awarded the composer the Gold Medal of the Pontificate last year, in honor of his “extraordinary artistic work in the sphere of music, universal language of peace, solidarity and spirituality.”

The award was presented April 15, 2019, by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, in Rome’s Sant’Agnese in Agone church in Piazza Navona.

In an interview with the National Catholic Register in 2013, Morricone discussed the relationship between his faith and art. 

He said: “I do not think about my faith when I write a piece of music. I think of the music that I have to write -- music is an abstract art. But of course, when I have to write a religious piece, certainly my faith contributes to it.”

Morricone wrote the score for “Karol: a Man Who Became Pope,” portraying the early life of St. John Paul II, in 2006.

He also composed a Mass marking the 200th anniversary of the restoration of the Society of Jesus in 2015, dedicating it to Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope. 

The composer and his wife met Pope Francis before the premiere of the “Missa Papae Francisci.” 

Recalling that he cried when he met Francis, Morricone said: “Don’t get the idea that I burst into tears at every opportunity; those were the only two times I have ever cried -- when I first watched ‘The Mission’ and when I met the pope.”