Moscow Patriarch's Message to Benedict XVI

«To Understand a People, It Is Necessary to Listen to Its Music»

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2010 ( Here is a translation of the message sent Thursday by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow and All Russia, to Benedict XVI on the occasion of the concert sponsored by the patriarchate in the Holy Father’s honor. The event marked the Pontiff’s recent birthday and fifth anniversary of his pontificate, and closed the «Days of Russian Culture and Spirituality in the Vatican.»
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Holiness, Beloved Brother in Christ,
Eminences, Excellencies, Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
My heartfelt greetings to Your Holiness, as well as to all the participants in the concert of Russian sacred music, organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, by the Pontifical Council for Culture, and by the Department of External Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow.
For the first time in history, three exceptional music groups — the Russian National Orchestra, the Synodal Choir of Moscow and the Horns Chapel of Saint Petersburg — meet today in Paul VI Hall, in the Vatican, to perform works of great Russian composers. Present in the Hall are the head of the Catholic Church, representatives of the episcopate and clergy, monks and nuns, laymen. All this makes the moment you are living an event of great importance in the history of cultural exchanges between our Churches.
Music is a particular language that gives us the possibility to communicate with our hearts. Music is able to transmit sentiments of the human spirit and spiritual states that words cannot describe.
To understand a people, it is necessary to listen to its music. And this applies not only to Orthodox liturgical music, of which today some of the best realizations will be performed, but also to the work of the Russian composers written for concert halls. In the years of persecutions against the Church and of the dominance of State atheism, when the majority of the population did not have access to sacred music, these works, together with the master works of Russian literature and figurative art, contributed to take the evangelical proclamation, proposing to the secular world ideals of great moral and spiritual depth. «Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with timbrel and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!» (Psalm 150: 3-4). These words of the Psalm, which will also resonate today in your Hall, enable us to see that music can be permeated with the spirit of prayer and contemplation of God. Even secular music can transmit a spiritual content.
I pray for God’s support to Your Holiness and to all the guests and participants in the concert.

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