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Friday, October 19, 2007

Pope Revives Gregorian Chant

(Chiesa.com) - Pope Ratzinger seems to be stepping up the tempo. The curia will have a new office with authority in the field of sacred music. And the choir of the Sistine Chapel is getting a new director

In the span of just a few days, a series of events have unfolded at the Vatican which, taken all together, foretell new provisions – at the pope's behest – to foster the rebirth of great sacred music.

The first of these events took place on Monday, October 8. On that morning, Benedict XVI held an audience with the "chapter" of Saint Peter's basilica – meaning the bishops and priests who, together with the archpriest of the basilica, Angelo Comastri, celebrate Mass and solemn Vespers each Sunday in the most famous church in the Christian world...

...The second event took place on Wednesday, October 10, again in Saint Peter's Basilica. The orchestra and choir of Humboldt Universität in Berlin, conducted by Constantin Alex, performed the Mass "Tu es Petrus," composed in honor of Joseph Ratzinger's eightieth birthday by the German musician Wolfgang Seifein, who was present at the organ...

...The third event is Benedict XVI's visit to the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, on the morning of Saturday, October 13.

To the professors and students of this institute – which is the liturgical-musical "conservatory" of the Holy See, the one that trains Church musicians from all over the world – the pope cited Vatican Council II, where it says that "as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy" (Sancrosanctum Concilium, 112).

He also confirmed that "three characteristics distinguish sacred liturgical music: sanctity, true art, and universality, meaning its ability to be used regardless of the nature or nationality of the assembly."

And he continued:

"Precisely in view of this, ecclesiastical authorities must devote themselves to guiding wisely the development of such a demanding genre of music, not by sealing off its repository, but by seeking to insert into the heritage of the past the legitimate additions of the present, in order to arrive at a synthesis worthy of the high mission reserved to it in the divine service. I am certain that the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, in harmonious agreement with the congregation for divine worship, will not fail to offer its contribution for an 'updating', adapted to our time, of the abundant and valuable traditions found in sacred music."

This expectation could soon be followed by the institution, in the Roman curia, of an office endowed with authority in the area of sacred music. It is already known that, as a cardinal, Ratzinger maintained that the institution of such an office was necessary...

...The fourth event, which came shortly before the first three, was the replacement, on October 1, of the director of pontifical liturgical celebrations.

To replace Piero Marini – who will go to preside over the pontifical committee for international Eucharistic congresses – the call went out to Genoa, to Guido Marini, who's close to his predecessor in name, but to pope Ratzinger in substance...

...One final event must be added to the events already mentioned, one that provides background for all the others. It is the promulgation of the motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum," by which Benedict XVI liberalized the ancient rite of the Mass.

It is increasingly evident that with this decision, pope Ratzinger wanted to make it possible for the modern liturgies to regain the richness of the ancient rite that they are in danger of losing: a richness of theology, textual form, and music....

read full story here

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