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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 January, 2004, 20:20 GMT
Vatican concert unites faiths

By David Willey
BBC correspondent in Rome

The Vatican has hosted a concert of classical music aimed at fostering reconciliation among Christians, Muslims and Jews.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at the Vatican concert
It is the first time a US orchestra has played for the Pope at the Vatican
Pope John Paul II, Israel's two chief rabbis and leading Muslim clerics were among the audience for a first performance of a new choral work by an American composer.

The Vatican says the musical evening was intended to promote the commitment to peaceful co-existence among all the children of Abraham.

The title of the choral work receiving its premier at the Vatican on Saturday night was, very appropriately, Abraham, the name of the biblical patriarch revered by members of all three faiths.

Also in the programme were movements from Gustav Mahler's Second Symphony, known as The Resurrection.

The inter-faith theme of the concert was echoed among the performers - a mixed choir consisting of singers from the London Philharmonic, from Turkey, from the Pope's own home town of Krakow in Poland and from Pittsburgh in the United States.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra was under the baton of Gilbert Levine, an American who used to direct the Krakow Symphony Orchestra and who is a personal friend of the Pope.

On Friday, Pope John Paul welcomed Israel's two chief rabbis at the Vatican.

It was the first ever such visit by Israel's top religious leaders, who were also at the concert, together with some leading Muslim clerics.

An American Catholic organisation called the Knights of Columbus is paying the expenses for the concert, expected to cost about $500,000.

The BBC's Brian Barron
"The host himself looked clear-eyed as he was wheeled in"

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