Officials from The World Meeting of Families announced that entertainer Mark Wahlberg will host a music festival on the Ben Franklin Parkway associated with the papal visit.
Wahlberg, 44, is perhaps best known for his roles in The Departed and Lone Survivor, but he is also known for a series of racially motivated attacks made during his teen years, including one that left a Vietnamese man blind in one eye.
The Boston-born actor and musician will host the Festival of Families, which will be held on Saturday, Sept. 26, one day before Pope Francis is scheduled to celebrate mass there. Also scheduled to perform for the pontiff: Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, pop-rockers The Fray, crooner Andrea Bocelli and The Philadelphia Orchestra.
Wahlberg, who has long said that he has turned his life around and said that his legal troubles stemmed from substance abuse during his teen years, has sought a pardon from authorities in Massachusetts. That pardon request is on hold, amid a backlog.
“I did a lot of things that I regretted and I certainly paid for my mistakes,” Wahlberg told ABC News in 2010. “You have to go and ask for forgiveness and it wasn’t until I really started doing good and doing right, by other people as well as myself, that I really started to feel that guilt go away. So I don’t have a problem going to sleep at night. I feel good when I wake up in the morning.”
According to the New York Daily News, he was charged in 1988 with attempted murder for beating two Vietnamese men — one of whom lost an eye, according to reports — in an attempt to steal beer. He was 16 at the time, and under an injunction to not commit any more hate crimes.
According to a story in the UK Daily Mail, Wahlberg has apologized to that victim, Johnny Trinh. Trinh told the paper that he was blind decades earlier in the Vietnam War, and not in the attack.
That court order stemmed from attacks on two African American brothers and another attack on a group of African American school children.
When he was 14, Wahlberg attacked a group of African American children on a school field trip at a time when the city was undergoing social upheaval over school desegregation. Wahlberg and a group of friends allegedly threw rocks at the children and shouted at them to get out of their neighborhood.
Organizers from the World Meeting of Families said they were aware of the incidents before booking the entertainer.
“Mr. Wahlberg has been very open about how he reconnected with his Catholic faith after this incident and how he sought forgiveness in the Church. One of the core tenants of the Catholic faith is forgiveness and his decision to seek that from God and recommit his life, with faith at the center or it, is not only something to be respected but admired,” papal meeting planners said in a statement.