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5/1/2009 1:52 PM
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At 5:30 on Thursday afternoon, April 30, the Holy Father attended a concert at the Aula Paolo VI offered by the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, on the occasion of the fourth anniversary as Pope.

President Napolitano performed the same gracious gesture for the Pope on the third anniversary last year after he came back from his trip to the United States where he marked the actual date while he was in New York.

The Pope and the President have a brief chat before the concert.

The concert was performed by the Verdi Orchestra and Chorus of Milan conducted by Xian Zhang and Erina Gambarini, respectively.

The program featured Haydn's Symphony No. 95, Mozart's Haffner Symphony, Vivaldi's Magnificat in G-minor, and Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus.

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's remarks after the performance:

Mr. President of the Republic,
Eminent Cardinals.
Honorable Ministers,
venerated brothers.
ladies and gentlemen:

In addressing to all my heartfelt greeting, I express my most sincere gratitude to the President of the Italian Republic, the Honorable Giorgio Napolitano, who, on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the start of my Pontificate, has offered me this excellent musical homage.

Thank you, Mr. President, for this and for the kind words that you addressed to me just now, and an affectionate greeting to your gracious wife.

I am happy to greet the Ministers and other authorities of the Italian State, as well as the ambassadors and other personalities who honor us with their presence.

I was very pleased at the return of the Giuseppe Verdi Orchestra and Chorus of Milan, whom we appreciated last year. As I thank the Verdi Foundation and those who contributed in various ways to organizing this concert, I renew my congratulations to all the orchestra and chorus members, particularly the conductor, Mademoiselle Zhang Xian, and chorus master Erica Gambarini, as well as the three soloists.

The mastery and enthusiasm of each has contributed to an execution which truly gave new life to the pieces offered, the works of three composers of the first order: Vivaldi, Haydn adn Mozart.

I found the choice of the numbers very appropriate to the liturgical time we are going through - Eastertide.

Haydn's Symphony #95 which we heard first seems to contain in itself an itinerary which we might call 'Paschal'. Indeed, it starts in the tonality of C-minor, and through a development that is perfectly equilibrated, but not without drama, it reaches its conclusion in C-major. This recalls the itinerary of the soul - represented particularly by the cello - towards peace and serenity.

Shortly afterwards, Mozart's Symphony Number 35 amplifies and crowns the affirmation of life over death, of joy over sadness. Indeed, the sense of celebration dominates. The tempo is very dynamic and in its finale, truly overwhelming - and in this, our orchestral virtuosi have made us feel how strength can harmonize with grace. It is what happens to the maximum degree, if you will allow me this comparison, in God's love, in which strength and grace coincide.

Then the human voice enters the scene, so to speak: the choir, almost as if to give words to what the music has expressed. It is not by chance that the first word was 'Magnificat'.

From the heart of Mary - who was favored by God for her humility - this word has become the daily song of the Church, precisely at this Vespers hour, the time that invites to meditation on the sense of life and of history.

Clearly, the Magnificat presages the Resurrection, the victory of Christ: in him, God fulfilled his promises, and his mercy was revealed in all its paradoxical power. Thus, the 'word'.

And Vivaldi's music? First of all, it is noteworthy that he composed the soloists' arias expressly for some singers who were his pupils at the Venetian hospital of La Pieta - five orphans gifted with extraordinary singing abilities.

How can we not think of Mary from whom God drew 'great things'? Thus, these five soloists almost represent the voice of the Virgin, while the chorus expresses the Church-community. Together, Mary and the Church are united in the single canticle fo praise to "the Holy", to God, who with the power of love, realizes his plan of justice in history.

Finally, the Chorus gave voice to that sublime masterpiece that is Mozart's Ave verum Corpus. Here, meditation gives way to contemplation: the eye of the mind fixes itself on the Most Blessed Sacrament to recognize the Body of Christ, that Body which was truly immolated on the Cross and from which flowed forth the spring of universal salvation.

Mozart composed this motet shortly before his death, and in it, one can say that music has become true prayer, the abandonment of the heart to God, with a profound sense of peace.

Mr. President, your kind and generous homage has succeeded amply not only to gratify the aesthetic sense, but at the same time, to nourish our spirit, and for this I am doubly grateful to you.

I express my best wishes in the continued execution of your high mission, and I extend that similarly to all the authorities present.

Dear friends, thank you for coming today. Remember me in your prayers, so that I may always fulfill my ministry as the Lord wishes. May he who is our peace and our life bless all of you and your families.

I wish you all a good night.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/3/2009 10:55 PM]
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