Pope Francis hasn’t watched television in a couple of decades, which might be a good thing in light of the announcement that actor Mark Walhberg will host the Festival of Families outdoor event in Philadelphia next week — an event the pope is scheduled to attend.
Wahlberg was the creative force behind HBO’s Entourage, a show and recent movie that chronicles a Hollywood superstar’s less-than-pious exploits with his boyhood pals, as well as the star of two films depicting the life of a rather crude stuffed bear, Ted. (For what it’s worth, both movies were given a rating of “O” — morally offensive — by the Catholic News Service.)
Then again, Wahlberg says he takes his faith seriously.
“I pray every day and try to go to church every day. My faith in God is what makes me a better man,” he said in a recent interview. “It’s the most important part of my life.”
And he credits his career’s staying power to his faith and the help of a parish priest during a rough upbringing in Boston.
“I never would have been able to change my life and have the success and love that I have in my world today without my faith,” he said.
The outdoor festival is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 26, the second-to-last day of the pope’s US visit.
Wahlberg isn’t the only star coming out for the papal visit.
Celebrities including Jennifer Hudson, Gloria Estefan, Aretha Franklin, and Andrea Bocelli will be performing at papal events in New York City and Philadelphia. Francis is visiting those cities, as well as Washington, during his first trip to the United States from Sept. 22-27.
Officials with the Archdiocese of New York announced performers for an afternoon concert at Madison Square Garden on Sept. 25, before Pope Francis celebrates Mass there in the evening. Along with Hudson and Estefan, performers scheduled to appear include Harry Connick Jr., Norm Lewis, and Martin Sheen. The program was being called “A Journey in Faith” and is expected to include prayers.
Tickets for the Mass were distributed through the archdiocese’s parishes, and security is expected to be very tight, with attendees advised to arrive early.
In Philadelphia, organizers announced that 72-year-old singer Aretha Franklin will be part of the lineup for the Festival of Families hosted by Wahlberg, which is the closing ceremony for the triennial World Meeting of Families conference.
Comedian Jim Gaffigan, who works his Catholic faith into his TV Land series, “The Jim Gaffigan Show,” also will perform at the festival, as will The Fray, Sister Sledge, Bocelli, Juanes, and The Philadelphia Orchestra. The next day, Francis will celebrate Mass before an expected crowd of more than 1 million people.
No celebrity performances have been announced for Washington.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.