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September 28, 2015

World Meeting of Families apologizes to Juanes

Pope Francis left the Festival of Families before the Colombian singer performed

The World Meeting of Families apologized Monday to Latin American superstar Juanes, whose performance Saturday at the Festival of Families came shortly after Pope Francis left the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

By the time Juanes appeared on stage around 9:45 p.m., the crowd had slowly thinned throughout the Festival, particularly as six families shared their testimonies. And when Pope Francis departed the stage, it inspired a mass exodus to the gates.

The World Meeting of Families released a statement expressing its gratitude to Juanes for travelling to Philadelphia to perform. It also apologized to Juanes, saying the time constraints placed on Pope Francis were "immense."

"We are sorry that the Holy Father had to depart before his extraordinary performance," the statement read. "An important part of this event are the testimonies of the families to Pope Francis and the difficult decision had to be made about whether to allow all families to give witness to their faith to the Holy Father or preempt for Juanes' performance. ... There was no malice intended in this decision and it was not meant as a slight to Juanes and his immense talent in any way."

The statement concluded by noting his performance was enjoyed by "hundreds of thousands" on the Parkway, though observers at the scene put the number as much lower. The statement says "millions around the world" enjoyed his performance on a global stream, introducing him to a new audience.

Juanes, of Columbia, was joined by the Pennsylvania Girlchoir and the Keystone State Boychoir during his performance of his hit "This World Needs More Love."

Earlier in the evening, Bobby Hill, a 14-year-old in the Keystone State Boychoir, sang a soprano solo of "Pie Jesu" earlier in the Festival. He then presented Pope Francis with a rock brought back from the choir's historic 2009 concert in Antarctica.

Juanes was preceded on stage by a lineup of musicians that included Aretha Franklin, Sister Sledge, The Fray and Andrea Bocelli. The Philadelphia Orchestra accompanied several artists, including Juanes, Franklin and Bocelli, and performed several classical pieces on its own.