A star-studded cast of celebrities is slated to perform for Pope Francis during his upcoming visit to the United States. Notables like Aretha Franklin, The Fray, Sister Sledge, Andrea Bocelli, Juanes, and the Philadelphia Orchestra are scheduled to grace the stage in preparation for the Pontiff’s meeting with the people.
On Monday, the Archdiocese of New York announced that the Pope’s Mass at Madison Square Garden next week will be preceded by a two-hour show called “A Journey of Faith,” with prayer, reflections, and devotional music performed by stars such as Harry Connick, Jr., Gloria Estefan, and Jennifer Hudson.
Organizers expect 1.5 to 2 million people for the papal events scheduled in Philadelphia, and tickets for Francis’ Mass at Madison Square Garden have been unavailable for some time. About 80,000 tickets were given out through a city-sponsored lottery system for the Pope’s September 25 procession through Central Park, though scalpers continue to offer tickets on eBay and Craig’s List for hundreds of dollars, a practice denounced by New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
Dolan said that the tickets were free for a reason — to give as many people as possible the chance to participate in the Pope’s visit, including those with “modest means.”
The Pope’s popularity has won him more than just admirers. According to U.S. Homeland Security, agents have already broken up at least one threat against Pope Francis, who will visit Washington, D.C., and other U.S. cities this month, a lawmaker has said.
Authorities are concerned about the visit because the Pope likes to get out among the huge crowds that gather to see him, Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said Sunday.
The Pope “is a very passionate man. He likes to get out with the people,” McCaul said on ABC’s This Week.
“We are monitoring very closely threats against the Pope as he comes in to the United States. We have disrupted one particular case in particular,” he said.
The Pope seems to sense the passing nature of popularity and how easily it can go the other way.
Asked in a radio interview Monday how he felt about being so popular around the world, Francis quipped that “at one time Jesus was very popular and we all know how that ended, don’t we?”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.