- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Archdiocese of Washington plans to hold a concert in May to celebrate the Catholic Church’s newest saints — Popes John XXIII and John Paul II.

Called “Peace through Music ‘In Our Age’,” the musical event will be performed May 5 at Constitution Hall. It not only will honor the past leaders of the faith but also will serve as a “calling for us to recognize that there is a basic humanity we all share,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, said Thursday at a press conference.

Both John XXIII and John Paul II are to be canonized in Rome on April 27.

The Nostra Aetate (Latin for “In Our Age”) was declared by Pope Paul VI in 1965 and adopted by the Second Vatican Council. It calls for “dialogue and collaboration” between the Catholic Church and other faiths such as Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.

“It seemed to me extremely important the idea of realizing not only the importance of these two popes, but the renewal of the idea of religious freedom,” Gilbert Levine, the U.S. conductor spearheading the concert, said Thursday at the press conference at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Northwest.

Known as “the pope’s maestro,” Mr. Levine worked with John Paul on several musical endeavors for nearly 20 years, including the 1994 papal concert commemorating the Holocaust. He has received a pontifical knighthood, and Cardinal Wuerl calls him a “creative force.”

The Orchestra of St. Luke’s, which performs in Carnegie Hall in New York, is set to perform, as is the Krakow Philharmonic Orchestra, based in Poland.

Among the pieces chosen for the concert are the “Chichester Psalms,” a choral work by Leonard Bernstein that will be sung in Hebrew, as well as “Sanctus” from Giuseppe Verdi’s “Requiem.”

John XXIII was elected pope in October 1958 and convened the Second Vatican Council. He died in 1963 and was beatified in 2000 by John Paul II.

John Paul was elected in 1978 and died in 2005. He was beatified in 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI, who waived the traditional five-year waiting period to begin the sainthood process.

“Everyone knows the work and extraordinary impact of John Paul II,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “John Paul II highlighted over and over again the need for people to [come] together.”

In the Catholic faith, sainthood is one of the church’s highest honors. Beatification is the first major step in that process, and usually requires that a miracle can be attributed to the intercession of the person being beatified. A second miracle is required for a candidate to be canonized a saint.

“In a way, this is a great occasion to mark the end of one era and the beginning of another era,” Mr. Levine said.

• Meredith Somers can be reached at msomers@washingtontimes.com.

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