Concert Brings East and West Together

Patriarch and Cardinal Say It Prepared for Easter

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ROME, APRIL 2, 2007 ( The performance of Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeev's "The Passion According to St. Matthew" united East and West for a "unity concert " which ended with a long, standing ovation.

Composed by Bishop Alfeev of Vienna and Austria, representative of the Russian Orthodox Church of Moscow to the European Community, "The Passion According to St. Matthew" was performed last Thursday in an auditorium beside the Vatican.

At the beginning of the concert, Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Councils for Interreligious Dialogue and for Culture and a trustee of the concert, read a message from Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia.

"For all of us it is good preparation for the great and salvific days of Passion Week, which will help us comprehend the great atoning work accomplished by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," the patriarch wrote.

"Only if we are conscious of this atoning feat are we deemed worthy of a special joy to meet the risen Christ on the bright day of Christ's Passover," he continued.

Both lungs

Cardinal Poupard observed: "The Passion According to St. Matthew" is not just "a merely cultural event, but also, and I would say, above all, a moment of reflection and preparation for the great feast of Easter." This year, Orthodox and Catholics will celebrate Easter on the same day.

The concert, the cardinal added, offers the opportunity "of participating in first person in this journey of mutual knowledge, esteem and communion desired by both Churches, which continues ever more intensely and fruitfully" so that the Church can breathe "with both lungs."

This is in order to take advantage of the richness of the "spiritual and cultural patrimony of East and West, welcomed and lived in its substantial unity and its creative cultural complementarity," Cardinal Poupard added.

Other concert trustees included Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, retired president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; Nikolay Sadchikov, Russian ambassador to the Holy See; and composer Arvo Part.

"The Passion" was conducted by Vladimir Fedoseev and interpreted by the Petr Chajkovskij Grand Symphonic Orchestra, and by the Trethakovskij Choir.

The concert was presented for the first time in Moscow two days earlier, in the presence of Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II.

EWTN covered the performance, which was broadcast by the Vatican Television Center.