Papal Address at La Scala Theater in Milan

«It is in the Family That the Light of Peace Begins to Shine to Illumine Our World»

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MILAN, JUNE 1, 2012 ( Here is the translation of the address given at “La Scala” Theater on Friday evening by Pope Benedict XVI to participantsof the VII World Meeting of Families

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Lord Cardinals,
Distinguished Authorities,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and Presbyterate,
Dear Delegations of the VII World Meeting of Families.
In this historic place I would like first of all to recall an event: it was May 11, 1946, and Arturo Toscanini raised the baton to direct a memorable concert in ‘La Scala’ rebuilt after the horrors of the war. It is said that the great maestro, no sooner he arrived here in Milan, came immediately to this theater and began to clap his hands in the center of the hall to see if the proverbial acoustics had been kept intact and, hearing that the acoustics were perfect, he exclaimed: “It’s La Scala, it’s always my Scala!” Enclosed in these words, “It’s La Scala, it’s always my Scala!,” is the meaning of this place, the temple of opera, the musical and cultural reference point not only for Milan and Italy, but for the whole world. And La Scala is connected to Milan in a profound way, it is one of its greatest glories and I wished to recall that May of 1946 because the reconstruction of La Scala was a sign of hope for the whole city to take up life again after the destructions of the War. Hence, for me it is an honor to be with all of you and to have experienced, with this splendid concert, a moment of elevation of the spirit. I thank the mayor, Giuliano Pisapia, the Superintendent, Stephane Lissner, also for having introduced this evening, but above all the Orchestra and Choir of La Scala Theater, the four soloists and maestro, Daniel Barenboim, for the intense and moving interpretation of one of the absolute masterpieces of the history of music. The gestation of the 9thSymphony of Ludwig van Beethoven was long and complex, but from the first famous sixteen notes of the first movement, a climate of expectation is created of something grandiose and the expectation is not disappointed.
Although following essentially the traditional forms and language of the classic symphony, Beethoven makes one perceive something new already from the breadth without precedents of all the movements of the work, which is confirmed with the final part introduced by a terrible dissonance, of which the recitative stands out with the famous words “O friends, not these tones, let us intone others that are more attractive and joyful,” words that, in a certain sense, “turn the page” and introduce the main theme of the Hymn to Joy. It is an ideal vision of humanity that Beethoven designs with his music: “the active joy in brotherhood and reciprocal love, under the paternal gaze of God” (Luigi Della Croce). It is not a properly Christian joy that Beethoven sings, however, it is the joy of the fraternal coexistence of peoples, of the victory over egoism, and it is the desire that humanity’s journey be marked by love, almost an invitation that he addresses to all beyond every barrier and conviction.
Over this concert, which should be a joyful celebration on the occasion of this meeting of persons from almost all the nations of the world, there is the shadow of the earthquake which brought great suffering to so many inhabitants of our country. The words taken from Schiller’s Hymn to Joy sound empty to us, in fact, they do not seem true. We do not completely experience the divine sparks of the Elysium. We are not inebriated by the fire, but rather paralyzed by the sorrow for so much incomprehensible destruction which cost human lives, which took away the homes and dwellings of so many. Also, the theory that above in the starry heavens a good father dwells seems debatable. Is the good father only above the starry heavens? Does his goodness not reach us? We seek a God that does not reign at a distance, but who enters our life and our suffering.
In this hour, Beethoven’s words, “Friends, not these tones …”, we want to refer, in fact, to Schiller. Not these tones. We do not need an unreal lesson on a distant God and on a brotherhood that is not challenging. We are looking for a close God. We are seeking a brotherhood that, in the midst of sufferings, sustains others and in this way helps to go forward. After this concert many will go to Eucharistic Adoration – to the God who entered into our sufferings and who continues to do so. To the God who suffers with us and for us and in this way has rendered men and women capable of sharing the suffering of others and of transforming it into love. It is precisely to this that we feel called by this concert.
Therefore, thank you once again to the Orchestra and Choir of La Scala Theater, to the soloists and to all those who made this event possible. Thank you to maestro Daniel Barenboim, also, because, with the choice of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, he enables us to send a message with the music which affirms the fundamental value of solidarity, of fraternity and of peace. And I think this message is also precious for the family, because it is in the family that one experiences for the first time how the human person is not created to live enclosed in himself, but in relationship with others; it is in the family that one understands how one’s fulfillment does not lie in putting oneself at the center, led by egoism, but in self-giving; it is in the family that the light of peace begins to shine to illumine our world. And thank you all for the moment we lived together. My most sincere thanks.

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