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Joseph Ratzinger

Joseph Ratzinger

Pope Benedict XVI has spoken of art and music as “the true path to God, the supreme Beauty” and “the greatest apologetic for our faith.”

“I remember a concert performance of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach – in Munich in Bavaria – conducted by Leonard Bernstein. At the conclusion of the final selection, one of the cantatas, I felt – not through reasoning, but in the depths of my heart – that what I had just heard had spoken truth to me, truth about the supreme composer, and it moved me to give thanks to God. Seated next to me was the Lutheran bishop of Munich. I spontaneously said to him: ‘Whoever has listened to this understands that faith is true – and the beauty that irresistibly expresses the presence of God’s truth.'”

It was a 1981 performance of Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (BWV 140) that had so deeply moved Joseph Ratzinger, then archbishop of Munich. Based on readings related to the end of time, the cantata was being performed in the memory of Karl Richter, the great interpreter of Bach’s music.

The Lutheran bishop sitting beside him, to whom Ratzinger had confided his thoughts, was Johannes Hanselmann, a leading figure in the ecumenical dialogue that led to the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed in 1999 by the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation.