Page last updated at 23:30 GMT, Wednesday, 7 May 2008 00:30 UK

Chinese orchestra plays for Pope

By David Willey
BBC News, Rome

Music director of China Philharmonic Orchestra Long Yu
The Vatican's audience hall was packed for the concert

The China Philharmonic Orchestra has given a performance of Mozart's Requiem Mass for the Pope inside the Vatican.

Analysts believe the landmark concert could be a sign of growing rapprochement between the Roman Catholic Church and China.

Beijing broke diplomatic relations with Rome more than half a century ago and relations have remained strained since.

The orchestra's conductor, Yu Long, said he hoped the performance would spread a message of peace and love.

Pope Benedict XVI, a lover of classical music, listened attentively to the Mozart Requiem seated on a throne in the middle of the vast audience hall, where earlier in the day he had greeted pilgrims.


Pope Benedict, a classical music lover, listened to Mozart's 'requiem'

Afterwards he thanked the conductor Yu Long, members of the orchestra and the Shanghai opera chorus, and posed for photographs with the soloists.

He also praised the cultural values of the Chinese people and wished Beijing success in holding the Olympic Games, which he said had great value for all of humanity.

It remains to be seen how this hastily arranged concert performance will affect future relations between the Vatican and China.

But both sides emphasised the importance of building bridges after years of tension.

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