Yesterday, Pope Francis received the 50 members of the Synodal Choir of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow in the Domus Santa Marta, just after his midday Angelus in St. Peter’s Square.
“Beauty will save the world.” Pope Francis cited this famous phrase of one of the greatest Russian writers of the 19th century, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, in a message to the choir, which yesterday evening, November 3, gave a concert in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.
The Pope was emphasizing to the choir that “music, painting, sculpture, architecture… in a word, beauty, unite us to grow in the faith celebrated, in prophetic hope, and in charity lived.”
The choir is directed by Aleksei Puzakov, a close personal friend of Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, the archbishop-composer whose music will be offered in a concert on November 12 in Rome. The two were friends as teenagers, when both studied music in Moscow in the last years of the Soviet Union.
The Russian choir sang together with the Vatican’s Capella Sistina choir directed by Monsignor Massimo Palombella.
The Pope’s message was read in the Basilica by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
In the Church, “art in all its forms,” the pontiff wrote, “does not exist only as a simple esthetic expression, but because by means of it the Church in every historical moment and in every culture explains and interprets in these forms the revelation for the good of the people of God. Art in the Church, exists fundamentally for evangelization.”
The Pope continued: “Today the Church can and must breathe with her two lungs, that of the East and that of the West. Where we are not yet able to do so fully, in accordance with the measure of the unity desired by Jesus in his prayer to the Father, we can do so in many other ways.,” one of which is precisely “the great patrimony of art and culture that the different traditions have produced for the ‘life in abundance’ of the people of God.”
In an article on Maestro Puzakov’s choir that will appear in tomorrow’s Osservatore Romano, is this note: “In all probability, the Moscow choir will perform some passages of sacred music during the celebration for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, as Anglican and Lutheran choirs have already done.” (Osservatore Romano, November 5, 2013)
So this very special Russian choir may be back in Rome in June 2014…