Modern Culture Risks Forgetting Christian Heritage
VATICAN CITY, 21 MAY 2010 (VIS)
Yesterday evening in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, Benedict XVI attended a concert in honour of his birthday and the anniversary of his election as Pope, offered by Kirill I, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. The concert, which included pieces by nineteenth- and twentieth-century Russian composers, was played by the National Orchestra of Russia conducted by Carlo Ponti, with the Synodal Choir of Moscow and the Horn Capella of St. Petersburg.
At the end of the concert, which was part of the initiative "Days of Russian Culture and Spirituality in the Vatican", the Holy Father listened to a message sent by Patriarch Kirill and was greeted by Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, president of the Department for External Church Affairs of the Patriarchate of Moscow and composer of one of the pieces played during the concert. The Pope then pronounced a brief address.
"Deep in these works", he said, "is the soul of the Russian people, and therewith the Christian faith, both of which find extraordinary expression in divine liturgy and in the liturgical chants with which it is always accompanied. There is, in fact, a close and fundamental bond between Russian music and liturgical chant. It is in the liturgy and from the liturgy that a large part of the artistic creativity of Russian musicians is released and expressed, giving life to masterpieces which deserve to be better known in the West".
Such nineteenth- and twentieth-century Russian composers as Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov "treasured the rich musical-liturgical heritage of Russian tradition, re-modelling it and harmonising it with musical themes and experiences of the West. ... Music, then, anticipates and in some way creates encounter, dialogue and synergy between East and West, between tradition and modernity.
"It was of just such a unified and harmonious vision of Europe that the Venerable John Paul II was thinking when, referring to the image of the 'two lungs' suggested by Vjaceslav Ivanovic Ivanov, he expressed his hope in a renewed awareness of the continent's profound and shared cultural and religious roots, without which today's Europe would be deprived of a soul or, at least, victim of a reduced and partial vision".
"Modern culture, particularly in Europe, runs the risk of amnesia, of forgetting and thus abandoning the extraordinary heritage aroused and inspired by Christian faith, which is the essential framework of the culture of Europe, and not only of Europe. The Christian roots of the continent are, in fact, made up not only of religious life and the witness of so many generation of believers, but also of the priceless cultural and artistic heritage which is the pride and precious resource of the peoples and countries in which Christian faith, in its various expressions, has entered into dialogue with culture and the arts".
"Today too these roots are alive and fruitful in East and West, and can in fact inspire a new humanism, a new season of authentic human progress in order to respond effectively to the numerous and sometimes crucial challenges that our Christian communities and societies have to face: first among them that of secularism, which not only impels us to ignore God and His designs, but ends up by denying the very dignity of human beings, in view of a society regulated only by selfish interests".
The Holy Father concluded: "Let us again let Europe breathe with both lungs, restore a soul not only to believers, but to all peoples of the continent, promote trust and hope, rooting them in the millennial experience of the Christian faith. The coherent, generous and courageous witness of believers must not now be lacking, so that together we may look to our shared future, a future in which the freedom and dignity of all men and women are recognised as a fundamental value, in which openness to the Transcendent, the experience of faith, is recognised as an essential element of the human being".