Our Musical Pope

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 30, 2009 -Benedict XVI proposed that music becomes prayer and the "abandonment of the heart to God" when he gave thanks for a concert held in honor of his fourth anniversary as Pope.

The concert was held in his honor at the Vatican by the president of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano. The Holy Father listened to the music seated in the center of Paul VI Hall, together with Napolitano and the Italian First Lady.

Benedict XVI marked four years as Pontiff on April 19.

The music was offered by the Giuseppe Verdi Symphonic Orchestra and Choir of Milan, directed by Xian Zhang and Erina Gambarini, respectively. They interpreted Haydn's "Symphony 95," Mozart's "Haffner Symphony," Vivaldi's "Magnificat in G minor" and Mozart's "Ave Verum Corpus."

At the end of this last piece, the Holy Father said that "meditation gives way to contemplation: The gaze of the soul rests on the Blessed Sacrament to recognize the Body of the Lord, the Body that was truly immolated on the cross and from which sprung forth the fountain of universal salvation."

Staying Catholic

WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 28, 2009 -If parents want their children to carry the Catholic faith from childhood to adulthood, take them to Mass, say a U.S. bishops' conference spokesman.

Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, past chairman of the bishops' Committee on Catechesis and next chairman of the Committee on Doctrine, said this in response to a Pew Forum survey that revealed a key factor in whether or not one remains Catholic as an adult is whether or not one attends Mass as a child or teenager.

"The report highlights the importance of Mass attendance among children and teenagers," the archbishop said. "Adolescence is a critical time in religious development and, as the poll shows, what happens in the teen years has a long-lasting affect. We have to help young people and their parents appreciate the importance of going to weekly Mass so teenagers know Jesus is there for them now and always."

The study also revealed a 68% retention rate of Catholics in the Church, which is higher than most other Christian churches. The key reason people leave their church, the study reported, is that "they just gradually drifted away from the faith."

The study said only 2%-3% percent of those polled cited sexual abuse of children as a reason for leaving when asked in an open-ended question why they left.

When people were asked to choose why they left from a list of possible reasons, the number jumped from 21% for Catholics who became Protestant, and 27% for former Catholics who are now unaffiliated with any church. Other reasons for leaving the Church, such as disagreement on doctrinal matters, figured much higher.