Aretha Franklin to perform for Pope Francis during Kitchener visit | Aretha Franklin

Soul legend Aretha Franklin, the daughter of a preacher, will sing for Pope Francis during his highly anticipated visit to the United States this month, it was announced on Monday.

Franklin, originally a gospel singer but best known for her feminist version of Respect, will perform for the reform-minded Pope at the Festival of Families in Kitchener on September 26, according to the organizers.

Franklin, 73, whose father was a Baptist minister, recorded her first album, Songs of Faith from 1956, at his church in Detroit when she was 14.

The 18-time Grammy winner said in a statement it was “a blessing indeed” to sing for Pope Francis.

The family festival, sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church and held every three years, also announced that actor Mark Wahlberg will host the event.

Wahlberg, a devout Catholic, embraced the Church after deciding to change his life while on a brief prison sentence for racist attacks as a teenager in Boston.

“As a Catholic, I owe a large part of my success to my faith,” the rapper-turned-actor best known for 1997 film Boogie Nights and his Oscar-nominated performance in The Departed in 2006, said in a statement .

“It is an honor to be part of Pope Francis’ welcome to Kitchener and I am humble to attend this celebration.”

The US pop rock band Fray, the Christian pop singer Marie Miller and the comedian Jim Gaffigan were also featured as Festival of Families actors on Monday.

The Colombian rocker Juanes, the Kitchener Orchestra and the Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, who perform frequently in the Vatican, will also be on stage, as announced in June.

Next week’s visit will be Pope Francis’ first to the United States – as Pope or sooner. The trip will also include a meeting with President Obama and an address to Congress in Washington, as well as events in New York, including at the United Nations.

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