Daily Mirror, 15th December 1995
...but Gipsy Kings are top of the Popes
Pop-loving Pope John Paul II has asked sexy chart-toppers Eternal to play at his annual Vatican carol concert tonight.
The band will perform the John Lennon hit Merry Christmas, War Is Over at a gala performance in the Eternal City.
They will be joined on the bill by the Pope's favourite group, the Gipsy Kings, American crooner John Denver, disco queen Gloria Gaynor and Irish singer Enya. Before the stars went into rehearsal for the gig of a lifetime they were invited to meet the Pontiff at the Vatican.
The Gipsy Kings provided background music with a Spanish acoustic version of Bing Crosby's White Christmas as the Pope spent an hour chatting to his guests.
John Denver had arrived straight from the airport with his mother, who forgot to take her rain hat off and kept a tight hold of her duty fees throughout the meeting.
The Pope thanked the stars for supporting his concert in hushed tones before leaving them to enjoy a specially laid-on lunch at a nearby rooftop restaurant.
Eternal's Easther Bennett, who like all the band is a devout Christian, said: We all had to stand around in a circle and he came and spoke to each of us individually.
"He was really cute and friendly but the thing that stood out was how small he was."
Fellow band member Kéllé Bryan added: "I felt a bit sad because he didn't look very well. He's very fragile and frail. I just wanted to give him a big hug.
"It was a real honour and we were really excited but a lot of people in the room were overcome by it all and they started crying."
Tonight's concert, which will be televised throughout the world and seen by 400 million people is the third of its kind and marks the Catholic Church's attempt to encourage younger people to tune into God.
Last year, American singer Patti La Belle headed the bill, and in October the Pope asked Latin singer Gloria Estefan to perform for him in Rome after hearing her Hispanic album.
All the acts on tonight's bill were hand-picked by the Pontiff.
"We had to send a demo tape to the Vatican for the Pope to listen to before we were confirmed for the show." said Kéllé.
"We got a call a few days after the tape was sent and were told he would like us to be there.
"To be honest it still hasn't sunk in. It's not the sort of thing that happens to you evey day, is it?"