NEW YORK (AP) — Colombian pop star Juanes said he's deeply honored to be among the artists selected to sing for Pope Francis during his visit to Philadelphia this fall.
Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and the Philadelphia Orchestra were also announced Tuesday as performers at the Festival of Families celebration Sept. 26.
"This means so much to me," Juanes told the Associated Press in a telephone interview from Colombia.
The 42-year-old singer said Pope Francis' presence and leadership has been crucial in making the church "much more modern and much more respectful."
"I think he is a very accepting person, a person who brings people together," Juanes said in Spanish. "So being there as a Colombian, as a Latino, singing to him in Spanish, is a real honor."
The Festival of Families on Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway is the closing ceremony for the triennial World Meeting of Families — a Catholic conference designed to strengthen family bonds.
Organizers said they wanted to bring together musical performers who represent the world. Executive Director Donna Crilley Farrell called the lineup an "extraordinary gift."
"Without a doubt, these performances will not only capture the hearts and imaginations of the thousands who will watch them live on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway but also the millions around the world who will watch on television and online," Farrell said.
Pope Francis is scheduled to celebrate an outdoor Mass on Sept. 27 on the parkway, which runs between the Philadelphia Art Museum and the city's famed LOVE Park. More than a million people are expected to attend.
Conference organizers and city leaders including Farrell and Mayor Michael Nutter are meeting with officials at the Vatican this week to discuss planning. They said they will announce additional performers as the event nears.
Juanes, who has three children with wife Karen Martinez, is a good fit for an event called the Festival of Families.
"I wish I could stop the time every moment I spend with my children and always be with them," Juanes said. "They give me so much joy and strength. They are like this connection to reality. They keep me grounded."
AP reporter Michael Sisak in Philadelphia contributed to this report.