Pope Benedict invited OLCS to perform the Messiah in the Vatican as part of the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Vatican City State. This was the first ever performance of the Messiah in the Vatican and occurred on 12th February 2009.
The Pope’s Speech
Here is a translation of the Holy Father’s remarks after the concert:
Venerated brothers in the episcopate and priesthood,
Ladies and gentlemen:
At the end of this beautiful evening, I am happy to address a heartfelt greeting to all of you who have taken part in this concert to mark the 80th anniversary of the foundation of Vatican City State.
I greet the religious, civilian and military authorities present, and other illustrious guests, with a special thought for the Prelates of the Roman Curia and those who work in the various offices of the Vatican Governatorate who have gathered here to mark, with this initiative, a very significant occasion.
I wish to express my gratitude to His Eminence, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, whom I also thank for the words of affection and devotion which he addressed to me before this concert.
I also greet the Secretary General, Mons. Renato Boccardo, and the other officials of the Governatorate. Naturally, I wish to express my appreciation to all those who cooperated in various ways to organize and carry out this musical event.
Certain that I speak for everyone present, I wish to express special words of gratitude and appreciation for the members of the RTE Concert Orchestra of Irish Radio and Television, to the members of Our Lady’s Choral Society from Dublin, to Music Director Proinnsías Ó Duinn, choirmaster Paul Ward, and the soloists.
I also address a special greeting to the many representatives of the faithful from Dublin who accompanied the cathedral choir of their city.
We have been offered excerpts from the famous oratorio Messiah by Georg Friedrich Händel, which is able to create a compelling spiritual atmosphere, thanks to an anthology of sacred texts from the Old and New Testaments which make up the fabric of the entire musical composition.
The orchestra and the chorus have succeeded to evoke admirably the figure of the Messiah, of Christ, in the light of the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament.
The richness of the musical counterpoint and the harmony of the singing have helped us contemplate the intense and arcane mystery of the Christian faith.
Once more it is evident how music and song, thanks to their easy interweaving with the faith, can confer a high pedagogical value in the religious field.
Music as art can be a particularly great way to announce Christ, because it succeeds to make mystery perceptible with an eloquence that is all its own.
This concert, which commemorates an anniversary significant for Vatican City State, is part of a program organized around the occasion with the theme “A small territory for a great mission”.
Now is not the time for a discourse on the historic event in itself, about which various experts are offering their contributions to a Congress from their respective competences in multiple aspects.
Also, I will be meeting the participants of these days of study on Saturday, when I will address them. I must also thank everyone who has contributed to solemnize an occasion that is so significant for the Catholic Church.
In commemorating 80 years of Civitas Vaticana, we must give credit to those who have been the protagonists in these eight decades of history on this tiny piece of land.
In the first place, I wish to remember my venerated predecessor Pius XI. When he announced the signing of the Lateran Pacts and above all, the constitution of the State of Vatican City, he used an expression of St. Francis of Assisi. He said that the new sovereign reality was, for the Church, as for the Poverello, “that little of the body that was necessary to keep the soul together” (cfr Address, Feb. 11, 1939).
Let us ask the Lord, who firmly guides the destinies of ‘the boat of Peter’ through the not always tranquil events of history, to continue to watch over this tiny state.
Let us ask him above all to assist with the power of his Spirit him who is at the rudder of this Boat, the Successor of Peter, who that he may be able to carry out his ministry faithfully and effectively to keep the unity of the Catholic Church, which has its visible center in the Vatican and extends to the very extreme ends of the world.
I entrust this prayer to the intercession of Mary, immaculate Virgin and Mother of the Church. As I renew, in the name of everyone present, a heartfelt thank you to those who planned this evening, to the orchestra members, the singers, especially the soloists, I assure each one of remembrance in my prayers and I implore for everyone the blessing of God. Thank you.