Russian Patriarch Sends Greeting to Pope

Reflects on Importance of Music During Soviet Era

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Russian Orthodox patriarch characterized a concert this week in the Vatican as an "event of great importance" in the history of cultural exchanges between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches.



Patriarch Kirill affirmed this in a personal message to Benedict XVI to introduce the concert sponsored by the patriarchate in the Holy Father's honor.

The Thursday event was held in Paul VI Hall.

The concert featured some of the great works of 19th and 20th century Russian composers. It closed with "Song of the Ascension," a symphony composed by a leading prelate in the Russian Orthodox Church: Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Department of External Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate.

"Music is a particular language that gives us the possibility to communicate with our hearts," Patriarch Kirill said in his message. "[...] To understand a people, it is necessary to listen to its music. And this applies not only to Orthodox liturgical music [...] but also to the work of the Russian composers written for concert halls."

The Orthodox leader reflected how during the years of state-imposed atheism, Russian music was key for evangelization.

He explained, "[W]hen the majority of the population did not have access to sacred music, these works, together with the master works of Russian literature and figurative art, contributed to take the evangelical proclamation, proposing to the secular world ideals of great moral and spiritual depth."

Quoting Psalm 150, he affirmed that "music can be permeated with the spirit of prayer and contemplation of God. Even secular music can transmit a spiritual content."

Patriarch Kirill concluded by praying for God's support for the Pope and other concert guests.

Earlier this month, Orthodox Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Sluck, said the time has come for Patriarch Kirill and Benedict XVI to meet, which would would be a first for the two pastors of Rome and Moscow.

However, there have been no official indications from either Church about a timeline for this meeting, though Archbishop Hilarion, as an Orthodox official, has said, "Personally, I hope that sooner or later the meeting that many are awaiting between the Pope and the patriarch of Moscow will take place."

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On ZENIT's Web page:

Full text of patriarch's message: www.zenit.org/article-29333?l=english