On Saturday, June 22, 2013, at 5:30 p.m., the Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra (RAI) performed Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. The concert was organized by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, as part of the Year of Faith celebrations.
But the Pope did not attend.
As is usual with such events, thousands of people had requested tickets. Such a large crowd was expected that, by way of exception, St. Peter’s Square had been transformed into a parking lot. But the Holy Father remained at the Casa Santa Marta.
Before the performance, Abp. Fisichella read a message from the Pope, offering his apologies to the public, citing “urgent commitments”. The message also made it clear that the Pope would keep all his scheduled appointments the following day, in particular the Angelus and an audience at the Vatican train station with hundreds of children who were to travel from Northern Italy to see him. Pope Francis did in fact attend all the events on Sunday, so speculation that he missed the concert on Saturday for health reasons was baseless.
Vatican commentator Frédéric Mounier, in the French newspaper La Croix, observed that “For the first time in more than ten years, all the apostolic nuncios of the world—the pope’s ambassadors—are present in Rome. It is easy to imagine that, given such an opportunity to meet them, the pope quickly understood that it would be more useful for him to listen attentively to one or another nuncio from a troubled country than to attend a concert.”