Lionel Richie, Bonnie Tyler, to Play at Pope’s Christmas Concert

Italian singer Sister Cristina Scuccia performs during the annual Vatican's Christmas concert on December 13, 2014 at the Vatican's Conciliation auditorium in Rome. AFP PHOTO / TIZIANA FABI (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty

ROME — The Vatican announced Friday that an international troupe of artists including Lionel Richie and Bonnie Tyler will be playing at its annual Christmas concert to be held on December 14.

This year’s concert, the 27th such event, has taken as its theme the “protection of the Amazon and indigenous peoples,” and organizers are hoping to raise funds to support charities in the Amazon region. Last year’s concert was devoted to another favorite theme of Pope Francis, the issue of migrants and refugees.

One of the organizers of the event, the Scholas Occurrentes Foundation, is endeavoring to engage the students from the 450,000 schools in its network in reforestation activities as well as in “rebuilding a harmonious rapport between nature and humanity.”

Along with the aforementioned performers, the concert will also feature Scottish artist Susan Boyle, the Italians Elisa, Simone Cristicchi, Fabio Rovazzi, Noemi, Davide Merlini, Giorgio Albiani, and Fabio Armiliato. The Italian Cinema Orchestra will be conducted by Maestro Renato Serio and Maestro Adriano Pennino, and a Gospel choir from the USA will also play, as well as the Corps Band of the Vatican Gendarmerie.

The Vatican has been holding its annual Christmas concert at the Paul VI Audience Hall since 1993, playing host to a broad range of Italian and international music artists.

Over the years, representatives of diverse genres have graced the Vatican hall, including Patti Smith, Annie Lennox, Al Jarreau, Andrea Bocelli, B.B. King, Bryan Adams, Bryan Ferry, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Gloria Gaynor, Tom Jones, and Sarah McLachlan.

In 2003, the concert was interrupted by soul artist Lauryn Hill, who seized the opportunity to lecture the prelates present on the issue of clerical sex abuse.

“I am sorry if I am about to offend some of you,” Hill told the 7,000 guests at the concert. “I did not accept my invitation to celebrate with you the birth of Christ. Instead I ask you why you are not in mourning for him in this place?”

“I want to ask you, what have you got to say about the lives you have broken?” she said. “What about the families who were expecting God and instead were cheated by the Devil?”

“Holy God is a witness to the corruption of your leadership, of the exploitation and abuses which are the minimum that can be said for the clergy. There is no acceptable excuse to defend the church,” she said.

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