Pope Francis shares stage with Aretha Franklin, Andrew Bocelli

Pope Francis and an admiring throng of thousands enjoyed a little music from the Queen of Soul, Andrew Bocelli and other performers at the end of his first day in Philadelphia on his first-ever US tour.

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

The festival included song, prayer and testimonials from people from different continents on the joys and challenges of family life, including an Argentine couple celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary.

Folk singer Marie Miller, American rock band The Fray and Columbian pop star Juanes also performed in an event hosted by actor Mark Wahlberg.

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.

“I attribute all of my success to my Catholic faith,” he told the crowd. “My faith has given me the ability to be a good father, a good husband and most importantly a good person.”

Franklin, best known for her hit Respect, performed Amazing Grace. The 73-year-old had said earlier she planned to present Francis with a gift: a box set of sermons by her father, civil rights activist and preacher C.L. Franklin.

Bocelli, whose rendition of The Lord’s Prayer was accompanied by The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Philadelphia Heritage Chorale, has described 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.

Source: gulfnews.com