Pope Francis to Share Stage With Aretha Franklin, Andrea Bocelli at Mark Wahlberg-Hosted Fest

Pope Francis 2015

Pope Francis photographed in New York on Sept. 25, 2015. 

Juanes and The Fray will also perform at the Philadelphia event.

Pope Francis and an admiring throng of thousands get to enjoy a little music from the Queen of Soul and other star performers in rounding out his first day in Philadelphia on his first-ever U.S. tour.

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Aretha Franklin leads an all-star lineup at the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, one of the events organized by the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families, which brought Francis to the city after visits in Washington and New York.

The festival will blend song, prayer and testimonials on the joys and challenges of family life. Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, Columbian pop star Juanes, and American rock band The Fray also will perform, and actor Mark Wahlberg will host the event.

Wahlberg credits his Catholic faith and a parish priest for turning him around after a rough upbringing in Boston that included cocaine addiction and a series of racially motivated attacks as a teenager.

Franklin, best known for her hit "Respect," was scheduled to perform "Amazing Grace" and another song she's keeping a surprise. The 73-year-old said she'll also present Francis with a gift: a box set of sermons by her father, civil rights activist and preacher C.L. Franklin.

"He impresses me in just being a very, very kindly pope," Franklin said.

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Bocelli's rendition of "The Lord's Prayer" will be accompanied by The Philadelphia Orchestra. Bocelli describes Francis as "a blessing given to the world."

"This journey represents for the United States a precious opportunity to embrace this giant, a man of God, a gift from heaven, a point of reference and a providential source of hope for our world," he said.

Prior to Francis' arrival, Sister Sledge will perform a special rendition of the hit "We Are Family."

Comedian Jim Gaffigan will also entertain the crowd. The 49-year-old Gaffigan attends Mass weekly with his wife and five children and regularly references his Catholicism in his stand-up and on his TV Land sitcom.

Joking about the ways of the church in one episode, he said: "Catholics don't read the Bible. That's why they give us Cliff Notes on Sunday."


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