Benedict XVI, emeritus pope and theologian, reflected on Saturday on classical music as an "encounter with the divine," saying listening to Mozart helps him experience "very deeply the Lord's presence."
Benedict's reflections came at a ceremony where he received honorary doctorates from the Pontifical John Paul II University of Krakow and the Krakow Academy of Music for his promotion of respect for the traditions of sacred music in the Church.
Since retiring from the papacy in 2013, Benedict has dedicated his time at the Vatican to prayer, meditation and classical music. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who served as the Vatican's guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy, he used to relax at home by playing his piano, with Mozart pieces a frequent choice.
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"It remains indelibly impressed in my memory how, for example, as soon as the first notes resounded from Mozart's 'Coronation Mass,' the heavens practically opened and you experienced, very deeply, the Lord's presence," Benedict, 88, said during his speech at the papal summer retreat in Castel Gandolfo, a hill town near Rome where he had first stayed after resigning, citing age and frailty.
Rarely making speeches as a retiree, Benedict told his audience music is born from the experiences of love, of "sadness, of being touched by death, by pain and by the abysses of existence" as well as from "the encounter with the divine."
He called the honorary degrees "an essential contribution so that the great gift of music that comes from the tradition of the Christian faith stays strong," and so that "faith's creative force isn't extinguished in the future."
Bestowing the honors was Krakow Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, who served as St. Pope John Paul II's longtime aide and who was made cardinal by Benedict.