In what appears to be an attempt to improve relations between the Holy See and Beijing, the China Philharmonic Orchestra is scheduled to perform for Pope Benedict XVI next week at the Vatican, Reuters reports.
On Tuesday, Vatican Radio said the concert will take place on May 7 in the Vatican’s audience hall. The orchestra, along with the Shanghai Opera House Chorus, will perform Mozart’s “Requiem.”
Vatican Radio called the concert “important,” adding, “With the performance in the Vatican of a great classic work of European music and religious inspiration, music is confirming its role as a language and most precious medium for dialogue among peoples and cultures.”
The concert is part of the orchestra’s European tour.
"This could not have happened without the government approving it," said one diplomatic source, according to Reuters.
Pope Benedict has made the improvement of relations with the Chinese government a major goal of his pontificate. In June he issued a 55-page open letter saying he sought to restore full diplomatic ties with Beijing, ties that were broken two years after the Communist takeover in 1949.
The Catholic Church in China is split between an underground Church loyal only to Rome and a government-sponsored Catholic Patriotic Association. Episcopal appointments to the government-run Church have often sparked controversy between Rome and Beijing, though lately clergymen to be ordained bishops in the state church have also sought approval from Rome.