Altar-ego: The village priest mixing Bible and bass as an international DJ

Guilherme Peixoto is known across the world as 'the DJ priest'. Credit: AP

A village priest in Portugal has found swapping his Bible for bass as an international DJ essential to the survival of his Catholic ministry.

Guilherme Peixoto, from Laúndos, has been busy in November celebrating Masses at his two parishes and presiding over remembrances for the dead.

He's also been performing for the masses, rehearsing an electronic music set ahead of his next global DJ gig.

Nearly two decades ago, Mr Peixoto started mixing up rock music at karaoke fundraisers for his debt-ridden parish in the small Portuguese village.

Guilherme Peixoto, on video screen, plays techno music to help pilgrims wake up at Parque Tejo in Lisbon on Sunday. Credit: AP

Now, wearing his clerical collar and large black headphones, he is known across the world as "the DJ priest".

By bringing a message of faith to youth who might have never heard of Jesus, his talent has proved crucial in a rapidly secularising continent where religious practice is dropping, especially among young people.

Mr Peixoto regularly re-mixes electronic dance beats with the words of Pope Francis, the results: a crescendo of Christian celebration.

"With electronic music I can take some message, I can be where young people are," Mr Peixoto said a few days after returning to Laúndos from playing at a large Halloween festival in Italy.

"They can think, 'If it’s possible for a priest to be DJ, it’s possible for me to like music, and festivals, and be Christian.'"

He has been moonlighting as a musician at festivals and concerts for years.

He broke onto the global stage when the organisers of World Youth Day in Lisbon asked him to "wake up the pilgrims" at 7am before Pope Francis’ open-air Mass in August.

Mr Peixoto, who’s also a military chaplain, had been preparing for the sets he would play with the Portuguese Army’s symphony band in late October, but he put everything aside and started prepping for the huge event only a few weeks away.

The DJ priest plays to a crowd in northern Portugal. Credit: AP

On that Sunday morning, among a crowd of white-robed bishops and before an estimated 1.5 million faithful, the DJ swayed to the dance beat he mixed with clips of papal speeches.

Early into the 30-minute set, the 1978 exhortation by St John Paul II to "not be afraid" to open one’s heart to Christ sounded out in Italian.

Pope Francis’ words that the Church has room for all - "todos, todos, todos" in Spanish - closed out the set as pilgrims danced and Mr Peixoto smiled broadly.

For Mr Peixoto, DJing in and far beyond the village has become a vital new way to evangelise.

A woman asks Roman Catholic priest Mr Peixoto to take a selfie with him after he played a set. Credit: AP

"I’m making these messages arrive where the church is not," he said of engagements like the Halloween festival with some 30,000 partygoers.

"The people are dancing with sentences from 'Laudato Si'," Mr Peixoto added with a chuckle.

"It’s not so much - two-three sentences from the Pope - but if I wasn’t there, it’s no sentence.

"It’s like a small seed, and the Holy Spirit will do his work."

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