“The Pope’s Maestro,” Sir Gilbert Levine Conferred with Papal Honor

Sunday, January 31, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The papal honor of the rank of Knight Grand Cross of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great was conferred on American conductor, Sir Gilbert Levine today in Washington. Founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1831, the honor recognizes women and men who have distinguished themselves through conspicuous service and notable accomplishment on behalf of the Holy Father, Vatican, Church and society. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington presided at the conferral of the papal honor in the Great Hall at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle in Washington. Maestro Levine is the first American of the Jewish faith to receive this papal honor.

Known as “The Pope’s Maestro,” Sir Gilbert Levine had a 17-year close, artistic relationship with Saint John Paul II, during which he created and conducted concerts for the Holy Father at the Vatican and around the world, including the historic “Papal Concert to Commemorate the Shoah” and the “Papal Concert of Reconciliation.”

In May 2014, in celebration of the canonizations of Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II, Maestro Levine conducted the musical event, “Peace through Music ‘In Our Age’- A Celebration of Saints John XXIII and John Paul II in the Spirit of Pope Francis” in Washington. The two-hour concert was a joint effort by WETA Washington D.C., Georgetown University, the Archdiocese of Washington and the embassies of Poland, Italy, Argentina and the Holy See and featured the Kraków Philharmonic Choir, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and the Washington Choral Arts Society and was broadcast on public media stations nationwide in Spring 2015.

The music program was specially selected to commemorate and celebrate historical moments of peace and understanding demonstrated by each pope and the theme of the concert was drawn from Nostra Aetate (“In Our Age”), a Vatican declaration issued in 1965 on interreligious dialogue and the relationship between the Catholic Church and Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. The declaration was adopted by the Second Vatican Council, which opened under the pontificate of Saint John XXIII. Saint John Paul II is known to be the first pope to visit a synagogue and throughout his pontificate was committed to furthering the spirit of Nostra Aetate. The concert celebrated the commitment of the two popes to interfaith dialogue, tolerance and mutual respect, and the musical selections honored this legacy.

“Over the years, Sir Gilbert Levine has conducted musical celebrations and concerts that have brought people of many faiths together,” said Cardinal Wuerl. “I wish to offer heartfelt congratulations to him for his distinguished service to the Church. His concert celebrating the canonization of the two popes in 2014 was a moving tribute to two individuals of our modern time who taught us about the basic humanity that we all share, showing us that we are all children of a loving God who need to relate to one another. They reminded us through their pontificates that it is possible to bring people together to build a world of peace and mutual respect. It is a message that our Holy Father, Pope Francis has also echoed, because this timeless message continues to have great relevance to our world today.”

Georgetown University president John DeGioia and WETA president and chief executive officer, Sharon Percy Rockefeller, whose organizations partnered with the archdiocese for the 2014 concert both offered words of congratulations to Maestro Levine on the occasion of the papal honor. “Sir Gilbert has used the power of music to spread a message of peace, unity, and reconciliation. He has provided an example to each of us of a deep commitment to interfaith understanding, and we wish to congratulate him on this extraordinary honor,” said President DeGioia.

“We join in expressing our gratitude to Sir Gilbert Levine for the body of his work over nearly three decades in public media,” said Sharon Percy Rockefeller. “Millions of viewers and listeners worldwide have been touched and inspired by the concerts he so beautifully envisions and executes. Each event is a poignant reminder of the power of music to bring us together.”

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The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics living in Washington, DC, and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

Chieko Noguchi
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