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On 11 December 2016, a concert performed by the Moscow Synodal Choir conducted by the honoured artist of Russia Alexei Puzakov and the Sistine Chapel Choir conducted by Mons. Massimo Palombella was performed at the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs in Rome. The concert prepared by the Joint Working Group for cultural cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Holy See with support of the St. Gregory the Theologian Foundation and Bank Intesa was dedicated to the 80th birthday of Pope Francis and timed to the patronal feast of the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Catherine the Great Martyr in Rome and held as a part of the Russian Art Festival titled ‘Russia – Italy. Through Centuries’ which is taking place in Rome from December 9 to 14.

Before the concert, Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, read out greetings from Pope Francis; Bishop Antony of Bogorodsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Administration for Institutions Abroad and administrator of the Moscow Patriarchate’s parishes in Italy, greeted the audience on behalf of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.

The Sistine Chapel Choir sang a Gregorian carol Gaudete in Domino and Ave Maria, Canite tuba and Hodie Christus natus est by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. The Moscow Synodal Choir sang pieces by Sergei Rachmaninov and Metropolitan Hilarion. Both choirs sang ‘We praise Thee, O God’ by Dmitry Bortnyansky and Tu es Petrus by da Palestrina.

After the concert, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, addressed the audience. He noted the significance of cultural cooperation for the development of the Catholic-Orthodox relations which have been given renewed momentum by the historic meeting of Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis in Havana last February.

The Moscow Synodal Choir’s badges of honour were given to Cardinal Kurt Koch, the Revd. Jacinthe Destivelle of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and to all others who are lending support to the Choir.