Madonna comes to town on tour Thursday, two days before Pope Francis arrives.


Or, is the Queen of Pop trying to meet up with il Papa?

Madonna Ciccone, 57, has spent three decades riling up the church that inspired her holy first name.

She's rolled around stages in wedding (or are they First Holy Communion?) dresses, accessorized corsets with crucifixes and rosaries (and a belt buckle reading "BOY TOY"), and spoken out loudly and proudly against Catholic orthodoxy.

She may have made strides toward family values with "Papa Don't Preach," her 1986 hit about "keepin' my baby."

But then came 1989's "Like a Prayer" video - stigmata, saint-kissing, cross-burning and all - which seemed tame compared with her 2006 "Confessions" tour, wherein she belted the ballad while hoisted upon a glittering cross, a custom-made bloody crown of thorns around her head. She even pulled off the performance in a Roman arena just 1 mile from Vatican City.

No wonder past popes have accused her of "blasphemy" and "provocation."

Madonna has said she's been excommunicated three times.

And yet . . . the iconic controversialist has also confessed to having quite a thing for the current Bishop of Rome.

In February she told Billboard, "I... feel this new pope is kind of groovy. And I think we might be able to get together and have a chat about sex."

Um, maybe not.

But they could talk dance. The best-selling female recording artist of all time got her start dancing. She tangos with Terrence Howard in her lush apocalyptic video "Ghosttown."

The tango is the signature dance of the pontiff's native home of Argentina. On the pope's 78th birthday, pilgrims in St. Peter's Square tangoed in his honor.

His holiness and the maven of Maverick Records could also talk history. Madonna won a Golden Globe Award for her portrayal of Argentine first lady Eva Peron in "Evita." (She tangos with Antonio Banderas in the film.)

Then again, the unlikely pair could just break bread together.

In response to the pope's statement that he "would not judge" the gay community, Madonna told an Italian radio host, "God bless Pope Francis. We've got to meet. A plate of pasta, a bottle of good wine. Do I have a chance?"

Chances are, no. World Meeting of Families festival host Mark "Marky Mark" Wahlberg might get an audience with the Bishop of Rome. The "Material Girl" is not likely to.

Pope Francis arrives in Philly on Saturday morning. That night, Madonna has to do the Boston leg of her much-praised, nostalgic-yet-fierce "Rebel Heart" tour. That night, she'll probably reprise "Like a Virgin," "Dress You Up," "La Isla Bonita," "Get Into the Groove" and "Holiday," along with recent releases "Living for Love" and "Bitch I'm Madonna."

Maybe so, but that doesn't mean Francis is gonna chill wit' you any time soon, Madge.

Madonna, Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad St., 8 p.m. Thursday, $40-$355, 800-298-4200,