Pop superstar Michael Jackson has been asked by the Roman Catholic Church to set the prayers of the late POPE JOHN PAUL II to music.

The 47-year-old singer was chosen to write music for the 24 prayers and chants, after Vatican officials decided his global celebrity would best promote their holy message.

FATHER GIUSEPPE MOSCATI says, "We have the rights for the 24 prayers written by Pope John Paul.

"We had hoped the fact that we have been in contact with Michael Jackson would remain a secret. But sadly it has leaked out ahead of time. We are in discussions and trying to sort it out."

The priest, who is head of the Millennium Music Society, insisted Jackson's hard-won battle against child molestation charges did not discount him as a candidate.

He adds, "He was cleared and found not guilty by a jury.

"Michael Jackson is very interested in this project - we shall see what happens."