It’s not quite singing for God, but Gloria Estefan had good reason to be nervous when she performed in Madison Square Garden on Friday. The occasion was Pope Francis’ planned mass, and Gloria Estefan was one of the musicians taking part in the concert beforehand, titled “A Journey Of Faith.”
Besides Gloria Estefan, Jennifer Hudson, Harry Connick, Jr., and the choir from the Church of St. Charles Borromeo in Harlem also performed. The stage would be transformed into an altar afterward where Pope Francis would deliver mass. Martin Sheen hosted the whole ceremony.
Gloria Estefan had one thing going for her that the others did not: she’d done it before. In fact, she even sang the same song, “Mas Alla” she’d sang for Pope John Paul II in his 1995 visit to New York. It also couldn’t have escaped her the appropriateness of a Hispanic artist performing for the first Hispanic pope. That didn’t stop her from being nervous, though. Estefan admitted that while she usually prayed for “the things that everyone prays for” she made sure to say an extra one that she wouldn’t forget the lyrics.
Estefan wasn’t so nervous she couldn’t exercise her sense of humor, though.
“I got to put that on my resume… ‘Warmed up crowd for the Pope.'”
Over 18,000 people showed up for the concert, including celebrities such as Stephen Colbert (by video) and Leonardo DiCaprio. Not everyone who attended was a celebrity, of course: many were regular Catholics who won the tickets from their local parishes. Many of the winners even said that Pope Francis was the person who had drawn them back to the church. When that was over, Pope Francis took the state accompanied by 33 bishops and five cardinals before leading mass for the then 20,000 people there. Francis specifically noted that Madison Square Garden was a place important to the city before going on to connect that to his central theme of reaching out to the anonymous and forgotten people inside it.
While Gloria was there for the big day, it wasn’t the first concert held in honor of the Pope’s visit. On Thursday, artists Moby and Sean Paul performed in a concert at the National Mall for Pope Francis Moral Action on Climate Justice Rally. Climate change has been one of the many themes that Pope Francis has emphasized in his U.S. visit. His last day in the country is Sunday.
There’s no video available of Gloria Estefan’s big performance as of yet, but the reviews on Twitter were good.
And for those who are wondering what Hudson and Connick performed: Jennifer Hudson sang “Hallelujah” along with a full orchestra, and Harry Connick, Jr. sang “How Great Thou Art.” But there’s no denying that Gloria Estefan should become the public face of the performance.
[Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images]