The Pope addressed the citizenry of Rome last Friday afternoon at an event that recalled the city's foundation as well as Benedict XVI's first anniversary in the papacy.
The municipality of Rome honored the Holy Father with a concert in the local Auditorium, on the 2,759th anniversary of the city's birth.
Among those who received the Pope were the president of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi; the vicar general for the Diocese of Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini; and Mayor Walter Veltroni.
At the end of the concert, which was broadcast on radio and television, Benedict XVI said, in an address published by the Holy See, that the memory of the city's foundation "is a propitious occasion to understand better Rome's vocation to be a beacon of civilization and spirituality for the entire world."
"Thanks to the meeting between its traditions and Christianity, in the course of the centuries Rome developed a peculiar mission and continues to be at present an important incentive for many visitors attracted by such a rich artistic patrimony, to a large extent linked to the city's Christian history," the Pope added.
He noted that the concert marks "the first anniversary of my pontificate. A year ago, following the death of the beloved and unforgettable John Paul II, the Catholic community of Rome was entrusted -- surprisingly, I must say -- by divine Providence to my pastoral care."
Benedict XVI marveled at how "generous, open and hospitable" Romans are and described their "singular human and spiritual warmth," which he said he was able to experience since the day of his election, April 19, 2005.
"Why not recall, for example, the embrace of so many people that is renewed every Sunday in the traditional event of the midday prayer?" he noted.
The Pope's gratitude extended to the choice of the musical program, which included works by Mozart on the 250th anniversary of his birth.
Benedict XVI alluded to the "very well known, marvelous" fragments chosen for the performance, "among them some of notable religious inspiration."
"The 'Ave Verum,' for example, which is often sung in liturgical celebrations, is a motet with words of solid theology and a musical accompaniment that touches the heart and invites to prayer," the Holy Father said.
"In this way, music, raising the soul to contemplation, also helps us to perceive the most profound hues of human genius, in which is reflected something of the incomparable beauty of the Creator of the universe," he commented.
Benedict XVI expressed his gratitude to the officials and promoters of the initiative, especially professor Bruno Cagli, superintendent of the St. Cecilia National Academy, its orchestra and choir directed by Vladimir Jurowski and soprano Laura Aikin, "who have performed fragments and arias of that musical genius that was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart."