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Saturday, March 4, 2017

Pope Francis meets with Sacred Musicians

At 11:35 this morning, in the Clementine Hall at the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience those who are participating in an International Convention of Sacred Musicians, organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Congregation for Catholic Education, in collaboration with the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music and the Ateneo Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Saint Anselm.  The Convention was held in Rome from 2 to 4 March 2017 and focused on the theme: Music and the Church: cult and culture fifty years after Musicam sacram.

Speech of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
addressed to participants taking part in the
International Convention of Sacred Musicians

Dear brothers and sisters,

I am pleased to meet with all of you, gathered in Rome from various countries to participate in the Convention on Music and the Church: cult and culture fifty years after Musicam sacram, organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Congregation for Catholic Education, in collaboration with the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music and the Ateneo Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Saint Anselm.  I greet you all very warmly, beginning with Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, who I thank for his introduction.  I hope that the experience of encounter and dialogue which you have experienced in the past few days, reflecting together on sacred music and particularly on its cultural and artistic aspects, has borne fruitful results for the ecclesial community.

Half a century after the Instruction Musicam sacram, this convention has chosen to explore the current relationship between sacred music and contemporary culture, between the music repertoire adopted and used by the Christian community and the prevalent musical tendencies from an interdisciplinary and ecumenical perspective.  Of great importance, you have also reflected on aesthetic and musical training of clergy, religious and laity who are committed to pastoral life, and more directly of members of various scholae cantorum.

The first document published by the Second Vatican Council was the Constitution on the liturgy entitled Sacrosanctum Concilium.  The Council Fathers, well aware of the difficulties encountered by the faithful who wished to participate in the liturgy, considering the fact that they no longer fully understood the language, the words and the signs.  To establish the fundamental lines traced out by the Constitution, certain Instructions were published, among which was one concerning sacred music.   Since that time, although there have been no new documents produced by the Magisterium concerning this matter, there have been various and significant pontifical interventions which have guided the ongoing reflection and pastoral commitment.

The premise of the aforementioned Instruction is still very timely:  Liturgical worship is given a more noble form when it is celebrated in song, with the ministers of each degree fulfilling their ministry and the people participating in it.  Indeed, through this form, prayer is expressed in a more attractive way, the mystery of the liturgy, with its hierarchical and community nature, is more openly shown, the unity of hearts is more profoundly achieved by the union of voices, minds are more easily raised to heavenly things by the beauty of the sacred rites, and the whole celebration more clearly prefigures that heavenly liturgy which is enacted in the holy city of Jerusalem (MS, 5).

Following the Council's directives, the Instruction highlights several times the importance of the participation of the entire assembly of the faithful, using terms such as active, conscious and  full, and pointing out very clearly that the true solemnity of liturgical worship depends less on a more ornate form of singing and a more magnificent ceremonial than on its worthy and religious celebration (MS, 11).  It is therefore, first of all a matter of participating intensively in the Mystery of God, the theophany that takes place at every Eucharistic celebration, in which the Lord is made present in the midst of his people, calling them to truly participate in the saving action of Christ who died and rose again.  Active and conscious participation consists therefore in knowing how to enter profoundly into the mystery, in knowing how to contemplate, adore and receive, in perceiving the sense, thanks especially to the presence of religious silence and the musicality of the language with which the Lord speaks to us (Homily at Santa Marta, 12 December 2013).  From this perspective, reflection on the renewal of sacred music and its valuable contribution continues.

In this regard, a dual mission emerges, which the Church is called to pursue, especially through those who, in various capacities, work in this field.  On the one hand, their duty is to safeguard and promote the rich and varied heritage we have inherited from the past, using it with balance in mind and avoiding the risk of a nostalgic or archeological vision.  On the other hand, you must be sure that sacred music and liturgical singing are fully inculturated in current-day artistic and musical language; capable of communicating the Word of God in songs, sounds and harmonies that make the hearts of our people vibrate, creating as well an opportune emotional climate, that enriches faith and encourages acceptance of and full participation in the mystery that is being celebrated.  Certainly, the encounter with modern-day and the introduction of languages spoken in the Liturgy have brought on many problems: linguistic as well as challenges regarding musical forms and genres.  Sometimes, a certain mediocrity, superficiality and banality has prevailed, to the detriment of the beauty and intensity of liturgical celebrations.  This is the reason why various contributors in this field - musicians, composers, directors and members of choirs and leaders of song - can all provide precious contributions to the renewal of sacred music and liturgical singing, especially regarding its quality.  To facilitate this process, we need to promote appropriate musical education, including among those who are preparing to become priests, in dialogue with the musical trends of our time, with the demands of various cultural areas, and in an attitude of ecumenism.

Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you once again for your commitment in the field of sacred music.  May the Virgin Mary, who in the Magnificat sang of the merciful holiness of God accompany you.  I encourage all of you not to lose sight of this important objective: to help liturgical assemblies and all of God's people to perceive and to participate, with all their senses, physical and spiritual, in the mystery of God.  Sacred music and liturgical singing have the task of giving us a sense of God's glory, his beauty, his holiness which surrounds us like a luminous cloud.

I ask you please to pray for me and with all my heart, I impart to you my Apostolic blessing.
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