VATICAN CITY, APRIL 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI celebrated his 80th birthday surrounded by friends, countrymen and what he has called a sort of “travel companion” — music.
“I am convinced that music is truly the universal language of beauty,” the Pope said at the end of a concert given today in his honor in Paul VI Hall.
“This language,” the Holy Father continued, “is capable of uniting men of good will throughout the world, and have them lift their gaze on high so as to open themselves to what is good and beautiful, which both have their ultimate source in God.”
The concert was performed by the SWR Radio Symphony Orchestra of Stuttgart, Germany, and was directed by the 26-year-old Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel. It was broadcast on Italian television and radio.
The orchestra performed works by Gabrieli, Dvorak and Mozart.
Benedict XVI, moved by the concert, said at the end: “Looking back on my life, I give thanks to God for having put me close to music, like a travel companion, which has always offered me consolation and joy.
“I also give thanks as well to all who, from the first moments of childhood, brought me toward this source of inspiration and serenity.”
He also gave thanks to “those who join music to prayer in harmonious praise, and through their works, help to glorify the Creator and Redeemer of the world, which is the marvelous work of his hands.”
To all present in the hall, the Holy Father said: “May the greatness and beauty of music help to give to you as well, beloved friends, a new and continuous inspiration to build a world of love, solidarity and peace.”
At the end of the concert, as the Pope was leaving, the more than 7,000 people present began to sing the song “Happy Birthday to You.”
Benedict XVI began his birthday celebrations Sunday by presiding over an open-air Mass in St. Peter’s Square, which was attended by more than 50,000.
Today the Pope received in audience Edmund Stoiber, minister-president of Bavaria, Germany, who was accompanied by his wife. The Pontiff who was born in the Bavarian town of Marktl am Inn in 1927.
The Holy Father also received greetings from the minister-president of Schleswig-Holstein, Peter Harry Carstensen.
The day took on an ecumenical tone when the Pontiff received in audience Metropolitan Ioannis Zizioulas of Pergamum who delivered a letter to the Pope from Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.
Benedict XVI also received in audience Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, the apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, accompanied by a 50-member delegation from the diocese. Cardinal Wetter succeeded Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the post of archbishop of Munich.
In the Ducal Hall of the Apostolic Palace, the Pope shared a meal with the members of the College of Cardinals.
Also today, some 350,000 copies of Benedict XVI’s book “Jesus of Nazareth” went on sale in bookstores in Italy. The book was also released in Germany and in Poland, homeland of his predecessor Pope John Paul II.