Pope: Symphony of peace between peoples
“We must strive to achieve peace, leaving aside violence and weapons, engaging ourselves in personal and communal conversions, through dialogue, in a patient search for an understanding that is possible”. This according to Pope Benedict XVI is the lesson that we can draw from the “living witness” of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, and from the majestic notes of the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies by Ludwig van Beethoven. Emer McCarthy reports Listen:
The concert by this unique orchestra of musicians from Israel, Palestine and other Arab nations, began as the sun-set over the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo. It was a special treat for Pope Benedict, on the feast of St. Benedict, organized by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi of the Pontifical Council for Culture with the patronage of Italian President Giorgio Napolitano who was present Wednesday evening, seated alongside the Pope.
As the last notes of the symphony died on the evening air, and Maestro Barenboim bowed before a standing ovation, Pope Benedict addressed those gathered, praising the foresight of the Israeli Maestro, whom together with the late Edward Said – a Palestinian intellectual and accomplished pianist – founded the orchestra to give the children of these divided communities a vehicle to look beyond their differences.
In fact Pope Benedict began by saying that music is above all a “harmony of differences”. It “brings people together, beyond every division”. But – the Pope cautioned - “this does not happen magically or automatically” it requires a “patient, laborious commitment that demands time and sacrifice, in the effort of listening to each other”.
Pope Benedict spoke of “the great symphony of peace between peoples, which is never completely accomplished”, remembering how his generation and that of Maestro Barenboim's parents, “have experienced the tragedies of World War II and the Holocaust”. The Pope concluded by thanking the young men and women of the Orchestra and Maestro Barenboim, for being living witnesses to the fact that peace and understanding – beyond differences and divisions – are possible and must by everyone’s common goal.
Below a Vatican Radio translation of excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI’s address
You can imagine how I am pleased to welcome an orchestra like this, born from the conviction, rather, from the experience that music brings people together, beyond every division, because music is a harmony of differences, just like at the beginning of a concert in the 'ritual' of fine-tuning. From the variety of timbres of different instruments, a symphony can emerge. But this does not happen magically or automatically! It is only achieved thanks to the efforts of the Conductor and each single musician. A patient, laborious commitment that demands time and sacrifice, in the effort of listening to each other, avoiding excessive aggrandizement, privileging the success of the whole performance.
While expressing these thoughts, my mind turns to the great symphony of peace between peoples, which is never completely accomplished. My generation, as well as the parents of Maestro Barenboim, have experienced the tragedies of World War II and the Holocaust. And it's very significant that you, Maestro, after reaching the highest goals for a musician, wanted to create a project like that of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, a group in which Israelis, Palestinians and musicians from other Arab nations play together, people of Jewish, Muslim and Christian religions. The numerous prizes which you and this Orchestra have been awarded show at the same time, professional excellence and an ethical and spiritual commitment. We heard as much this evening, listening to the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies by Ludwig van Beethoven.
Even in this choice, in this approach there is an interesting lesson for us. These two very famous symphonies express two aspects of life: tragedy and peace, man's struggle against an adverse fate, and his soothing immersion in a bucolic ambiance. Beethoven worked on these two oeuvres, in particular their completion, almost simultaneously. So much so that they were performed for the first time together - like tonight - in a memorable concert on December 22, 1808, in Vienna. The message I want to draw today is this: we must strive to achieve peace, leaving aside violence and weapons, engaging ourselves in personal and communal conversions, through dialogue, in a patient search for understanding that is possible.
So thank you from my heart Maestro Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra for being witnesses of this path. To each of you my best wishes and prayers, that you may continue to sow in the hope of peace in the world through the universal language of music.
Thank you and good evening to you all!
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