LATEST: Michael Jackson's role in the musical release of late pontiff POPE JOHN PAUL II's prayers, has been down played by the Vatican, with officials insisting they simply hoped to include the star's vocals.

The THRILLER hitmaker was reported to have agreed to set the 24 prayers and chants to music, but the Millennium Music Society's Father Giuseppe Moscati now claims Jackson's child abuse trial last year (JUN05) will exclude him from the project - despite him being found innocent on all counts.

The reverend insists he planned to cast the superstar as part of a choir, in a bid to cash in on Jackson's fame and promote the late pontiff's message.

Moscati tells Catholic Online, "It would be very difficult for the Vatican to accept the project.

"Although he has been absolved by the courts (Jackson's image) cannot be put alongside that of the pope.

"At this point, I am hoping to find a producer, a serious professional, in the United States who would want to join the project and who has contacts with professional singers."

Earlier today (08FEB05) Jackson also distanced himself from the project. The star's publicist RAMONE BAIN says, "Michael Jackson has not participated in any discussions with the Vatican."