Vatican Poised for a Historic Concert

Jews, Muslims and Christians to Gather This Saturday

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 14, 2004 ( An unprecedented concert will take place in the Vatican, in which 300 Jewish, Christian and Muslim artists will perform, to promote understanding between peoples, cultures and religions.

The Concert of Reconciliation, to be held Saturday in Paul VI Hall, will be performed by artists of the Philharmonic Orchestras of London; Krakow, Poland; Ankara, Turkey; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

It will be conducted by U.S. maestro Gilbert Levine, who for many years was conductor of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Krakow, where he met Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope.

Levine himself suggested the concert to John Paul II last summer, at a meeting in Castel Gandolfo, in thanksgiving for the 25th anniversary of his pontificate.

According to the program, Levine will conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony in a performance of composer John Harbison’s new work, «Abraham,» for chorus and orchestra.

Inspired by Genesis 17:14, the piece presents the divine call of the man whom Jews, Christians and Muslims alike all look to as their father in faith. The chorus will comprise singers from Pittsburgh and the Turkish capital, Ankara. The concert will also include a performance of parts of Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony.

In a statement issued in November, the Vatican explained that the concert is taking place «to promote the commitment to a peaceful coexistence among all the children of Abraham.»

Sponsors of the statement were the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, and the pontifical councils for Promoting Christian Unity and for Interreligious Dialogue. The U.S.-based Knights of Columbus is funding the concert.

«In a certain sense,» the statement said, «the concert next January 17 enlarges the horizon of that multitude of peoples who today more than ever must find in themselves and radiate the strength of fraternity, from which peace arises.»

The concert is expected to attract, among others, the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni; his predecessor, Elio Toaff; leaders of Rome’s mosque; and the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.

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