Pope Francis’ U.S. visit got a shot of star power as actor Mark Wahlberg, Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, and legendary tenor Andrea Bocelli welcomed the pontiff at an outdoor rally and concert in Philadelphia on Saturday.
Wahlberg served as master of ceremonies at the Vatican-sponsored event, billed the Festival of Families, where the Pope delivered a sermon on the importance of the family to the thousands of faithful in attendance.
“In the family, there are difficulties, but those difficulties are overcome with love,” the Pope said through an interpreter, according to the Associated Press. “Love is about celebration, love is joy, love is moving forward.”
Wahlberg, who drew the ire of some who questioned whether a former rapper and underwear model who has portrayed a porn star on screen was the appropriate choice to welcome the Pope, credited his Catholic faith with his personal and professional success.
“I attribute all of my success to my Catholic faith,” the actor told the crowd. “My faith has given me the ability to be a good father, a good husband and most importantly a good person.”
Aretha Franklin delivered a stirring version of Amazing Grace backed by a gospel choir to honor the pontiff, and the evening also featured musical performances from rock bands The Fray and Sister Sledge.
Wahlberg, who took over the microphone to introduce the following act, hugged Hill as he walked past, and could not resist throwing out a plug for his own film, the recently-released Ted 2.
“That right there was truly the voice of an angel,” Wahlberg said after Hill’s performance. “But then he whispered in my ear that he loved the movie Ted. And I told him that was not appropriate for a boy of his age.”
“Holy Father, please forgive me. I’ve always hoped that the good Lord has a sense of humor when it comes and pertains to many of the movies that I’ve made,” the actor joked.
The Pope will spend his final day in the United States in Philadelphia on Sunday before departing for Rome at around 8pm.