Our interview with President Napolitano
Benedict XVI welcomes him and acknowledges him with the warmth one feels for
an old and dear
Maestro Daniel Barenboim points to him as “the architect” of yesterday's event,
when the sun set on an historic evening at Castel Gandolfo. He, who is President
Giorgio Napolitano of the Italian Republic, shows all his pleasure at having
succeeded in his intention of getting these two men who spread the same message
of non-violence and peace to know each other better: one, the Pope, with his
words that resonate in every corner of the earth; the other, Maestro Barenboim,
taking the same paths, keeping pace with the rhythm of a symphony of peace
interpreted by young Israeli, Palestinian, Syrian, Lebanese, Egyptian, American,
German, Spanish and Argentine musicians. With his innate cordiality and his
exceptional readiness for dialogue, never faltering before either great or small
themes of life, President Napolitano willingly agreed to speak to
Cardinal Ravasi first, followed by Maestro Barenboim, gave away a tiny
secret: it was you who inspired and arranged an evening that went far beyond its
exceptional artistic and cultural value. Can you tell us why you were so keen on
For many years I have known and maintained a relationship that consists of
admiration and profound friendship with Maestro Barenboim. I am also well
acquainted with his youth orchestra. Indeed, I was extremely pleased to pass on
to this orchestra the Dan David Prize which I was awarded on 15 May 2011 in Tel
Aviv [editor's note: a scholarship of a million dollars] in order to help it
consolidate and develop its activities in the world. I have seen marvellous
pictures of its concerts throughout the world. I was deeply struck by the
concert it gave gave in Ramallah: it is incredible how these young people
succeed in making brothers and sisters of such a number of different young
people and how music conveys what, unfortunately, still today Governments and
politics do not manage to provide: that is, a sense of peace, of participation,
of sharing in common values that speak of solidarity and spirituality. These are
values that really could facilitate the solution of such an age-old, tragic
problem as the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians. The Pope is thus
acquainted with this situation.
When did you have the idea of getting them together?
A short time ago I had the opportunity to speak personally to the Pope about
this youth orchestra and about the message it is taking to the world. The Pope
showed that he immediately understood its importance, he wanted to know more
about it. And then the great gift. The gift that he made to these young men and
women by receiving them in his house. And this was also an immense gift for
Maestro Barenboim. They were deeply touch by such great sensitivity.
Where does your obvious harmony with Pope Ratzinger come from?
Six years have passed since the beginning of my mandate. The last of my seven
years in office began in May. I do not hesitate to confess that one of the
loveliest elements that has marked my experience has been, precisely, my
relationship with Benedict XVI. However there is something more, something that
has plucked at our human heart strings. And I am profoundly grateful for this.
Today, for example, we have spent a moment together characterized, precisely, by
so much simple humanity. We strolled together, we spoke to each other like
people who have a relationship of forthright friendship, with all the respect
that I have for him and for his most lofty ministry, for his most exalted
mission. Part of the reason why we feel close is because we are both called to
govern complex situations. The Pope, of course, in addition to being a “head of
State” is also and above all the head of the universal Church. I find myself at
the helm of the institutions of the Italian Republic in an extraordinarily
difficult period. It is necessary in any context to make strong motivations of
serenity, peace and moderation prevail. I am therefore very deeply aware of my
mission as moderator, and what can one say of the similar mission which is
incumbent on the Holy Father?
And then you are both united by the ideal of peace.
In the meantime I believe that the Holy Father's continuous appeals are
accepted and shared by a great many people throughout the world. Of course,
exhortations to peace, especially in areas such as the Middle East, collide with
a certain gangrene of conflicts and clashes, as always happens when decades and
decades pass without a solution being found. Something hardens into an
incrustation that is very difficult to remove. Each one of us does what he or
she can and the Pontiff can do a great deal with his inspiration and the
constancy of his action. At least this is what I hope.
How do you see the relationship between Benedict XVI and Italy?
I shall never forget the message he addressed to us on the occasion of the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy: I cherish and will always cherish it as a legacy of my presidential mandate. We might naturally have expected a cordial and formal message, but not, on the contrary, one as demanding as were his words, as well as his view of history. And this really shows that in Italy the State and the Church, the people of the Republic and the people of the Church, are very deeply and closely united.
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