VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI warmly thanked Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill for a concert celebrating the Pontiff’s April birthday and anniversary of election.
Beyond his words of gratitude to the Orthodox leader, the Holy Father used the occasion to promote harmony between East and West, particularly in light of Europe’s growing distance from its Christian roots.
The concert Thursday featured some of the great works of 19th and 20th century Russian composers. It closed with “Song of the Ascension,” a symphony composed by a leading prelate in the Russian Orthodox Church: Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Department of External Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate.
The Pontiff reflected that the concert opened a window to the “soul of the Russian people and with it the Christian faith, which find an extraordinary expression precisely in the divine liturgy and the liturgical singing that always accompanies it.”
Benedict XVI, himself an accomplished musician, noted the “profound original bond” between Russian music and liturgical singing.
“In the liturgy and from the liturgy is unleashed and begins to a great extent the artistic creativity of Russian musicians to create masterpieces that merit being better known in the Western world,” he said.
Drawing a deeper meaning from the concert, the Bishop of Rome affirmed that in music there is already a certain fulfillment of the “encounter, the dialogue, the synergy between East and West, as well as between tradition and modernity.”
Citing Pope John Paul II’s appeal for Europe to breathe with its “two lungs,” the German Pontiff reflected that “contemporary culture, particularly European culture, runs the risk of amnesia, of forgetfulness and, therefore, of abandonment of the extraordinary patrimony fostered and inspired by the Christian faith.”
“The Christian roots of Europe, in fact, are constituted not only by religious life and the testimony of so many generations of believers, but also by the inestimable cultural and artistic patrimony, pride and precious resource of the peoples and countries in which the Christian faith, in its different manifestations, has dialogued with cultures and art, has animated and inspired them, fostering and promoting as never before the creativity of the human genius,” he said.
The Pope affirmed that these roots are still alive in East and West and “must inspire a new humanism, a new season of authentic human progress, to respond effectively to the numerous and at times crucial challenges that our Christian communities and our societies must face, beginning with secularization, which not only leads to doing without God and his plan, but which ends by denying human dignity itself, in a society regulated solely by egotistical interests.”
“Let us make Europe breathe with its two lungs again,” the Pontiff urged, “let us again give a soul not only to believers but to all peoples of the continent, let us promote confidence and hope again, rooting them in the age-old experience of the Christian faith!”
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