Benedict XVI celebrated his 80th birthday surrounded by friends, countrymen and what he has called a sort of "travel companion" -- music.
"I am convinced that music is truly the universal language of beauty," the Pope said at the end of a concert given today in his honor in Paul VI Hall.
"This language," the Holy Father continued, "is capable of uniting men of good will throughout the world, and have them lift their gaze on high so as to open themselves to what is good and beautiful, which both have their ultimate source in God."
The concert was performed by the SWR Radio Symphony Orchestra of Stuttgart, Germany, and was directed by the 26-year-old Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel. It was broadcast on Italian television and radio.
The orchestra performed works by Gabrieli, Dvorak and Mozart.
Benedict XVI, moved by the concert, said at the end: "Looking back on my life, I give thanks to God for having put me close to music, like a travel companion, which has always offered me consolation and joy.
"I also give thanks as well to all who, from the first moments of childhood, brought me toward this source of inspiration and serenity."
He also gave thanks to "those who join music to prayer in harmonious praise, and through their works, help to glorify the Creator and Redeemer of the world, which is the marvelous work of his hands."
To all present in the hall, the Holy Father said: "May the greatness and beauty of music help to give to you as well, beloved friends, a new and continuous inspiration to build a world of love, solidarity and peace."
At the end of the concert, as the Pope was leaving, the more than 7,000 people present began to sing the song "Happy Birthday to You."