Pope Francis spent last night in Philadelphia being serenaded by Aretha Franklin, The Fray and Andrea Boccelli on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. But the pope was still the star of the show at the Festival of the Families.
Aretha Franklin belted out “Amazing Grace.” Andrea Bocelli sang the Lord’s Prayer.
But the thick crowds were there to see just one man: Pope Francis.
The highlight of the show for Michelle Barton from San Diego was a brief glimpse of the pontiff riding in his motorcade.
“It was kind of indescribable, I mean we’ve been sitting here and waiting all day, and it happened, and even though it was a brief moment it was a very real moment that we’d been waiting for so long,” she said.
The pope said creating families was “the most beautiful thing God ever did” and called for protecting children and the elderly. It was part of his ad-libbed concluding remarks delivered in Spanish.
He also spoke about the importance of a strong faith in keeping families together.
Gemma Rivera, a Mexican immigrant who traveled from Florida to see the pope, said she was heartened by how his message brought together all different kinds of families on the Parkway.
“With all the chaos that Donald Trump is having, I think that Pope Franciso is telling him a different story, that everybody can be united,” Rivera said. “Because we’re not criminals, we’re people and we’re all together here, you can see every kind of race, African Americans, white people, Mexican people. And I think Pope Francisco is bringing us all together.”
The performances from big-name acts were interspersed by six families from six different continents. They each took turns on stage speaking about their faith and how it strengthens their family life.
A fourteen-year-old boy from the Andorra section of Philadelphia got his 15 minutes in fame during the evening.
Bobby Hill from the Keystone State Boychoir was asked to jump on stage at the Festival of Families and sing to cover a long set change during the concert on the Parkway.
“I knew about five minutes before I went up there that I had to sing tonight and I had to do it a capella, so I was a little nervous at first, but when I was up there it was surreal, I would have to say,” Hill said. “When I would sing it would just hear it rebound and every note that I would sing it would echo forever, and it was just overwhelming.”
Hill sang a song from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s ‘Requiem’ and was complimented by the night’s host Mark Wahlberg.
Afterward Hill gave the pontiff a rock from Antarctica, where he performed with the boychoir.