Pope Benedict XVI, at the concert at Milan’s “La Scala” Opera House:
“We seek a God who does not reign from afar, but who comes into our lives and takes part in our suffering”
“A shadow has been cast over this concert, which should have been a joyous celebration of this meeting of people from almost every nation in the world, by the recent earthquake which brought about suffering and death to many inhabitants of our Country”.
These were the words proffered by Pope Benedict XVI at the end of the concert in his honor at Milan’s “La Scala” Opera House, in celebration of his participation in the World Meeting of Families. La Scala’s General Manager and Artistic Director , Stéphane Lissner, had already dedicated the concert to the victims of the disaster at the beginning of the evening. “It was destiny that during these days dedicated to the family, many families close to us would come to know unexpected tragedy and loss”, said Lissner, during his presentation of the concert. “We would like to translate the Holy Father’s sentiments and those of the organizers of this meeting, of the employees and artists of La Scala, and of Italians in general, into music, which we dedicate to the families of Emilia who have been devastated by the earthquake.”
Speaking from the conductor’s podium, the Pope praised the choice of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony: “It is the perfect work with which to launch a message of hope which affirms the fundamental values of solidarity, fraternity, and peace. This message is precious to families, as within the family structure we learn for the first time that man is not meant to live in isolation, but in relationships with others. In a family one understands that the realization of one’s self means not always being the center of attention, driven by egoism, but lies in giving. It is within the family structure that the light of peace begins to illuminate our hearts so that it can illuminate the world.”
The Holy Father remembered the 11th of May 1946, when “Arturo Toscanini took baton in hand to conduct a memorable concert at La Scala, which had been reconstructed after the horrors of the Second World War. They say that as soon as the Great Maestro arrived in Milan he went directly to the Theater and stood in the middle of the house clapping his hands in order to ascertain that the proverbial acoustic had been maintained. On hearing that it was perfect, he exclaimed “It’s La Scala, still my La Scala!” In those words – “It’s La Scala” – lies the sense of this place, temple of Opera, and musical Landmark not only for Milan or for Italy, but for all the world.”
Benedict XVI defined the concert “a moment of elevation of the soul”, underscoring that what Beethoven created with his music “is an ideal vision of Humanity”.
“It is not exactly Christian joy of which Beethoven sings, it is however the joy of fraternal tolerance among peoples, of a victory over egoism,” continued the Pope, “and it expresses the desire that humanity’s evolution is based on love. It is an invitation to all, regardless of borders or beliefs.”
Making reference to the words of Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”, he commented: “We seek a God who does not reign from afar, but who comes into our lives and takes part in our suffering.
“We do not need surreal discourse about a far-off God or about fraternity without commitment, he admonished, “We seek a God who is close to us. We need fraternity, which in the midst of adversity, does not abandon us, and helps us to go on with our lives”.
The Pope was seated on the main floor for the concert, and not in the Royal Box. On his left were the Secretary of State of the Holy See Tarcisio Bertone, the Archbishop of Milan Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Archbishop Emeritus of Milan Dionigi Tettamanzi and the President of the Pontifical Council for the Family Mons. Ennio Antonelli. On his right were the Vice-president of the House of Representatives Maurizio Lupi and his wife, the Ministero of Culture Lorenzo Ornaghi, representing the Italian Government, the President of the Lombardy Regioni Roberto Formigoni, the Mayor of Milan Giuliano Pisapia and his wife, and the President of the Province Guido Podesta’ and his wife.
Maestro Daniel Barenboim conducted the Ninth Symphony in D minor Opus 125 for soloists, chorus and orchestra, by Ludwig van Beethoven.
Upon arriving at La Scala Benedict XVI was welcomed by the Mayor of Milan and President of the La Scala Foundation Giuliano Pisapia, and by the General Manager and Artistic Director of La Scala Stéphane Lissner. A long applause accompanied the Holy Father as he made his way to his seat.
At the end of his speech Benedict XVI went backstage to say his goodbyes to the Maestro and theater direction, and returned to the Archbishop’s residence for the night.
It was the first time at La Scala, or in any other theater, for Benedict XVI, as Pope. And it took place in the same theater where on the 21st of May 1983 John Paul II, who was in Milan for the National Eucharistic Conference, attended a concert of Verdi’s music conducted by Riccardo Muti.
The concert at La Scala provided the occasion on which to communicate the themes of the Seventh World Meeting of Families through Music.
The Archbishop Angelo Scola underscored how “Music may be one of the most important elements of celebrations: there is no real celebration without it, without men and women who are transported by melodies and rhythms which allow them to express their joys, their melancholy, their expectations and their sadness.”
Among the audience were representatives of 85 Episcopal Conferences from all over the world, families who had travelled to Milan for the Meeting, as well as 50 Cardinals, members of the Lombardy Parliament, the Prefect of Milan Gian Valerio Lombardi, and representatives of various local government institutions.