.- Pope Benedict XVI attended a concert on Thursday evening as part of commemorations for the 70th anniversary of World War II. The Holy Father prayed that "the recollection of those sad events be a warning, especially to the new generations, never to yield to the temptation of war," and pointed to the ecumenical movement as a means to held build a civilization of peace.
The concert, which was titled "Young People Against War (1939-2009)" took place yesterday evening in the Auditorium on Rome's Via della Conciliazione.
The musical celebration was played by the "InterRegionales Jugendsinfonie Orchester" and conducted by Jochem Hochstenbach. The programme included compositions by Gustav Mahler and Felix Mendelsshon-Bartholdy and texts by Johan Wolfgang Goethe, Heinrich Heine, Paul Celan and Berthold Brecht, as well as two poems by children imprisoned in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, read by Michelle Breedt and Klaus Maria Brandauer.
Organizations that helped put the event together included the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism, the German embassy to the Holy See and the European "KulturForum" of Mainau.
Following the concert, Pope Benedict said that it was a joy for him to participate in the event and that the universal language of music is able to "encourage young people to build the future of the world together, drawing inspiration from the values of peace and the brotherhood of man."
Turning to the fact that it was the tragedy of World War II that occassioned the concert, the Pope called it "a terrible page of history steeped in violence and inhumanity which caused the death of millions of people, leaving the winners divided and Europe to be rebuilt. The war, instigated by National Socialism, affected many innocent peoples in Europe and on other continents, while with the drama of the Shoah it particularly affected the Jewish people, who were victims of a planned extermination."
And yet, the Pontiff noted, "calls for reason and peace were not lacking from many sides. Here in Rome, the heartfelt cry of my venerated predecessor Pius XII rang out. In his radio message of 24 August 1939 - on the very eve of the outbreak of war - he decisively proclaimed: 'nothing is lost with peace. Everything may be lost with war'. ... May the recollection of those sad events be a warning, especially to the new generations, never to yield to the temptation of war."
Pope Benedict then went on to mention the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, "an eloquent symbol of the end of the totalitarian Communist regimes of Eastern Europe," he said. "Europe and the entire world thirst for freedom and peace. Together we must build true civilisation, not founded on force but on the 'fruit of our victory over ourselves, over the powers of injustice, selfishness and hatred which can even go so far as to disfigure man.'"
"The ecumenical movement," he concluded, "can help to build [this civilization], working together with the Jews and with all believers. May God bless us and grant humankind the gift of peace."