Mark Wahlberg to Host for The Festival of Families with Aretha Franklin

Philadelphia, PA - The World Meeting of Families -Philadelphia 2015 today announced that Academy Award nominated actor, Mark Wahlberg, will serve as the host for The Festival of Families with Pope Francis on Saturday, September 26 on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

In addition to Mr. Wahlberg's role, it was also announced that the 18-time Grammy Award winning "Queen of Soul," Aretha Franklin will perform for the Holy Father as will the multi-platinum and four-time Grammy Award nominated band, The Fray . Marie Miller, singer, songwriter, instrumentalist and finalist in the 2014 Macy's iHeartRadio Rising Star Competition, has also been added as a performer. Mr. Wahlberg, Ms. Franklin, The Fray and Ms. Miller join an all-star lineup of musical performers including Andrea Bocelli, Juanes and The Philadelphia Orchestra, all of whom were first announced in June 2015.

"When we first envisioned The Festival of Families, we could have never anticipated such an extraordinary line-up of talent would be part of this once-in-a-lifetime event," said Donna Crilley Farrell, Executive Director of the World Meeting of Families - Philadelphia 2015. "We are deeply honored to have Mark Wahlberg serve as our host and we are thrilled to have the legendary Aretha Franklin and the immensely popular band, The Fray, join us in Philadelphia for Pope Francis' visit. Undoubtedly, their presence - with Andrea Bocelli, Juanes and The Philadelphia Orchestra -will make this evening truly unforgettable for all who attend."

Executive Producer Scott Mirkin of ESM Productions brought creative leadership, set and scenic design, and world-class entertainment to The Festival of Families, ensuring it to be one of the most joyful and historic events to ever take place in the City of Philadelphia. Prior to the formal program including participation by the Holy Father, Pope Francis will partake in a parade from Eakins Oval, up the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, around City Hall and back down the Parkway to Eakins Oval. This extensive parade route will allow the hundreds of thousands gathered together for this event to see him up close.

Further adding to the excitement of the Festival of Families, The World Meeting of Families - Philadelphia 2015 also announced several hours of pre-programming on its two stages: The Eakins Oval Stage and The Logan Square Stage. Among the headline performers is New York Times best-selling author and popular comedian, Jim Gaffigan, who is Executive Producer and star of "The Jim Gaffigan Show" which premiered in July 2015 on TV Land and Comedy Central (See Photograph Below). Also performing is Jackie Evancho, the young soprano from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who was runner-up on the fifth season of "America's Got Talent" and had "Awakening," her third studio album, debut at #1 on Billboard's classical charts in July 2014.

Below are all of the artists and groups slated to perform along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, prior to The Festival of Families:

Eakins Oval Stage: Saturday, September 26
In performance order; Performances begin at 5:27 p.m. EDT

· American DanceWheels

· Jackie Evancho

· Matt Maher

· Sister Sledge

· Jim Gaffigan

Logan Square Stage: Saturday, September 26
In performance order; Performances begin at 12:45 p.m. EDT

· Salvation Army Songsters

· Dancing with Students

· Christopher Duffley

· Saint Raymond of Peñafort Gospel Choir

· Modero Dance Company

· Nigeria/Igbo Community @ St. Cyprian Viva Mas

· Mutya Philippine Dance Company

· St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Community

· Oscuro Quintet

· Everything Fitz

· Joe Castillo

· Osage Ballet Company

These performances will be shown across the Francis Festival Grounds on the 40 Jumbotrons.

In addition, the World Meeting of Families - Philadelphia 2015 also released the final renderings of the performance stage for The Festival of Families. These renderings can be downloaded here along a 3D animation of the set.