Aretha Franklin has a song and a gift for the pope

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Pope Francis Begins Six-Day Visit to the US


NEW YORK (AP) -- Getting Aretha Franklin to sing for you could be considered a gift in itself. But the Queen of Soul has something special for Pope Francis when she performs for him at the Festival of Families concert in Philadelphia on Saturday.

Franklin told The Associated Press that she'll present the pope with a box set of sermons by her father, civil rights activist C.L. Franklin, a famous preacher in his own right. "Almost everything that he recorded is in that set," she said Wednesday.

See more coverage of the pope's visit​: What's on the pope's schedule for his visit this week?

She's one of several singers, including Andrea Bocelli and Juanes, set to perform during the pope's historic visit to the U.S. He arrived in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, and will visit New York before ending his trip in Philadelphia.

Franklin praised the pope for his attention to the poor: "He impresses me in just being a very, very kindly pope."

Franklin, who has performed for presidents, civil rights leaders and a host of luminaries, sang for Pope John Paul II when he visited Detroit in 1987.

"When I was called to sing, his motorcade was just coming into Hart Plaza, so I don't know if he heard the performance or not, but the P.A. system was so loud, I'm pretty sure he did," she said.

See photos of how Philadelphia is prepping for the pope:

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NTP: Philadelphia prepares for the Pope visit
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Aretha Franklin has a song and a gift for the pope
Viewed from the Embassy Suites hotel traffic moves along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, top left, Thursday, July 30, 2015, in Philadelphia. On the parkway Pope Francis is scheduled to visit The World Meeting of Families' festival and celebrate a Mass during his visit to the United States. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
In this Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, photo, a tourist passes cutout of Pope Francis at Making History, a Philadelphia themed gift shop Philadelphia. The cutouts have been popping up in areas around the region weeks ahead of pope's scheduled visit. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A city worker uses a torch to cut a lock on an abandoned bike, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, in Philadelphia. The two-day sweep of abandoned bikes ending Thursday afternoon is an annual cleanup that's also part of the city's preparations for the pope's scheduled visit. A spokeswoman for the mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities says 143 bikes are slated for removal. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A city worker tosses an abandoned bike in the back of a truck, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, in Philadelphia. The two-day sweep of abandoned bikes ending Thursday afternoon is an annual cleanup that's also part of the city's preparations for the pope's scheduled visit. A spokeswoman for the mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities says 143 bikes are slated for removal. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Bicycles are piled up in a truck as city workers remove abandoned bikes, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, in Philadelphia. The two-day sweep of abandoned bikes ending Thursday afternoon is an annual cleanup that's also part of the city's preparations for the pope's scheduled visit. A spokeswoman for the mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities says 143 bikes are slated for removal. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter arrives for a news to discuses plans for Pope Francis' scheduled visit to the city, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, in Philadelphia. The U.S. Secret Service will turn large swaths of downtown Philadelphia into vehicle-free security zones with fenced inside areas during Pope Francis' visit next month. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Displayed is an event area map for Pope Francis' scheduled visit to Philadelphia, during Mayor Michael Nutter's news conference Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, in Philadelphia. The U.S. Secret Service will turn large swaths of downtown Philadelphia into vehicle-free security zones with fenced inside areas during Pope Francis' visit next month. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
City workers remove an abandoned bike, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, in Philadelphia. The two-day sweep of abandoned bikes ending Thursday afternoon is an annual cleanup that's also part of the city's preparations for the pope's scheduled visit. A spokeswoman for the mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities says 143 bikes are slated for removal. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A city worker removes an abandoned bike, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, in Philadelphia. The two-day sweep of abandoned bikes ending Thursday afternoon is an annual cleanup that's also part of the city's preparations for the pope's scheduled visit. A spokeswoman for the mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities says 143 bikes are slated for removal. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A city worker uses a torch to cut a lock on an abandoned bike, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, in Philadelphia. The two-day sweep of abandoned bikes ending Thursday afternoon is an annual cleanup that's also part of the city's preparations for the pope's scheduled visit. A spokeswoman for the mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities says 143 bikes are slated for removal. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
City workers toss an abandoned bike in the back of a truck Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, in Philadelphia. The two-day sweep of abandoned bikes ending Thursday afternoon is an annual cleanup that's also part of the city's preparations for the pope's scheduled visit. A spokeswoman for the mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities says 143 bikes are slated for removal. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
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Franklin said she felt "most appreciated" to be included in the concert.

"Just to be held at this level of esteem at this juncture of my career is really great," she said.

Franklin plans to sing "Amazing Grace" and another song she declined to reveal: "I'll let you be surprised."

She chose "Amazing Grace" for its universal appeal. She sang it on her best-selling live gospel album of the same name decades ago.

"Amazing Grace" is also the name of a documentary that director Sydney Pollack made of Franklin recording the classic album. It was due to be released this year, but Franklin has gotten an injunction to prevent its release. She declined to talk about the case, saying a gag order was in effect.

Franklin said she would be doing select concerts this year, then plans to slow down and spend more time with her grandchildren. She added that she is in talks with record labels to record new music.

"I cannot wait to get back into the studio."

Read more special coverage on Pope Francis' visit to the U.S.:
Why conservative Catholics call the pontiff 'Obama's pope'
What non-Catholics think about the pope's visit
Papal visit may revitalize American Catholicism's image

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