This week the Italians took their turn at showing their affection and respect for the Pope by hosting a classical music concert in honor of his third anniversary and birthday. Benedict XVI thanked the choir and the orchestra for sharing the gift of music with people. Music, he said, has a spiritual value because it can “infuse hope into the human soul.”
The concert was offered by the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, who met with the Pope for 15 minutes beforehand. The meeting was characterized by the Vatican as one of “great cordiality” and included a discussion of the Holy Father’s recent U.N. address. Following their conversation, the heads of state proceeded to the Paul VI Hall to attend the performance.
The concert featured pieces by Luciano Berio, Johannes Brahms and Ludwig van Beethoven and was performed by the Giuseppe Verdi symphony orchestra and choir of Milan.
Pope Benedict followed the concert from the central aisle of the hall alongside President Napolitano and his elder brother Msgr. Georg Ratzinger. Both Ratzinger brothers are avid classical music fans and musicians themselves.
At the end of the concert, Benedict XVI thanked the Italian president for the concert in which, he said, "I discern a further sign of the great affection the Italian people nurture for the Pope".
Having extended his gratitude to the choir and the orchestra, the Holy Father encouraged the Giuseppe Verdi Foundation "to continue the prestigious artistic and cultural journey they have begun, which, I am aware, is also enhanced by their commitment to use music to mitigate situations of human difficulty, such as in hospitals and prisons".
The Pope explained that there is a “spiritual value” to the art of music which, “in a special way, is called to infuse hope into the human soul, marked and sometimes injured by its earthly condition.
“There is a profound and mysterious relationship between music and hope, between song and eternal life", the Holy Father said. "It is no coincidence that Christian tradition shows the spirits of the blessed as they sing in chorus, captivated and enraptured by the beauty of God. But true art, like prayer, is not foreign to everyday reality, rather it calls us to 'irrigate' that reality, to make it sprout that it may bring forth fruits of goodness and peace.
Music, in fact, has a far greater value because it "reminds us furthermore of the value and the universal importance of artistic heritage,” the Pope said. He also mentioned that it is of particular value to the young, who can draw "new inspiration" from such heritage "in order to build a world founded on justice and solidarity, putting the multiform expressions of world culture to good account at the service of mankind".
Benedict XVI mentioned the importance that "educating people to recognize true beauty has for the formation of the young", and he explained how art "contributes to refining their souls and leads towards the construction of a society open to the ideals of the spirit.
"Italy, with is exceptional artistic heritage, can, in this regard, play an important role in the world", he concluded. "The quantity and quality of monuments and works of art the country possesses effectively make it a universal 'messenger' of all the values which art, at one and the same time, expresses and promotes. In the same way, the festive nature of song and music are a constant invitation to believers and to men and women of good will to commit themselves to giving humanity a future rich in hope".