Mark Wahlberg to Host Concert for Pope Francis in Philly

Aretha Franklin, The Fray and Jim Gaffigan will also perform at Saturday's event on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Mark Wahlberg and The Pope

Photo of Pope Francis via / Korean Culture and Information Service (Jeon Han), used under a Creative Commons license; photo of Mark Wahlberg (as Marky Mark) is an old publicity still; backdrop via ESM Productions | Photo Illustration: Dan McQuade

Mark Wahlberg will host the Festival of Families in Philadelphia the Saturday of Pope Francis‘ visit, the World Meeting of Families announced today. Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, rock band The Fray and comedian Jim Gaffigan will perform during the event.

“As a Catholic, I credit much of my success to my faith,” Mark Wahlberg said in a release. “It is an honor to be a part of welcoming Pope Francis to Philadelphia and I am humbled to join this celebration.”

ESM Productions, which is based in Two Penn Center and has planned large-scale events in Philadelphia previously, also released a short video of the stages at Independence Mall and on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

“I am deeply grateful to everyone who has come together to make this extraordinary event come to life,” said Scott Mirkin, president of ESM Productions and executive producer of the World Meeting of Families. “I am certain that, between the millions of faithful who will make the pilgrimage, and the outstanding show that we have built, the city of Philadelphia is prepared to warmly receive Pope Francis.”

The World Meeting of Families also released quotes from the other entertainers appearing next weekend.

  • Aretha Franklin: “It is indeed a blessing to sing in the presence of His Holiness and to the attendees of the Festival of Families in the City of Brotherly Love. I look forward to this event. Be blessed!”
  • Isaac Slade, The Fray: “Children have been a part of our band’s story from the beginning. We all have stories of our own fatherhood and family life and we’re honored to be a part of such a tremendous celebration, of six families from six continents, sharing their own stories with the world.”
  • Jim Gaffigan: “I am so humbled to receive this opportunity to perform in the presence of Pope Francis.”

Wahlberg is a curious pick for the festival, given his history. While his image has since been rehabbed as a famous, serious actor, in his teens Wahlberg threw rocks at a group of teens and permanently blinded a man in 1988. In both cases, he allegedly shouted racial slurs. He was originally charged with attempted murder and pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal contempt. Wahlberg attempted to have his record expunged last year.

Wahlberg, Franklin, The Fray and Gaffigan will be joining Andrea Bocelli, Juanes, Marie Miller, Matt Maher, Sister Sledge and the Philadelphia Orchestra (led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin) for the World Meeting of Families concert.