Benedict prefers to renew classical mass music

Authentic updating of sacred music needs to stay faithful to the "great tradition" of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony, said Pope Benedict at a special concert held in his honour in the Sistine Chapel.

"Sacred polyphony," the Pope said on Saturday after the concert organised by the Domenico Bartolucci Foundation, "especially the so-called 'Roman school,' is a legacy that must be carefully conserved, maintained alive and made known."

According to Zenit, the Pope said that it will be of "benefit not only to scholars and enthusiasts, but to the ecclesial community as a whole, for which it represents an inestimable spiritual, artistic and cultural heritage."

"An authentic updating of sacred music cannot occur except in line with the great tradition of the past, of Gregorian Chant, and of sacred polyphony," the Pontiff added.

"This is why," Benedict XVI said, "in the musical field, as well as in that of other artistic forms, the ecclesial community has always promoted and supported those who investigate new expressive ways without rejecting the past, the history of the human spirit, which is also the history of its dialogue with God."

The concert, directed by Msgr Domenico Bartolucci included a selection of motets composed by the permanent director of the Sistine Pontifical Musical Chapel, alternated with compositions by Giovanni Pierluigi of Palestrina (1525-1594).

The call for a return of more traditional forms of music comes as Australian bishops have voted in principle to accept a new English translation of the Mass that the Vatican favours as being more faithful to the original Latin text.

According to The Age, Melbourne Vicar-General Les Tomlinson said he did not believe the Pope intended to ban any particular music, he just wanted greater depth. Just as the church did not aim for the lowest common denominator in the language of worship, so the same desire was at work in its music.

Leading Melbourne Catholic singer and songwriter Juliette Hughes sympathised with the Pope. "There's lots of dreadful guitar music that is a stumbling block to people who want to come back to church - that dreadful 'I want to have a beer with Jesus' music," she said.

It's not the first time Pope Benedict has pronounced on music. Ten years ago he attacked Australian rockers AC/DC as an "instrument of the devil". The Pope loves Mozart, who was among the great classical composers banned for decades in the 19th century in favour of traditional plainsong and chants.

Renew Music in Light of Tradition, Pope Exhorts, "Sacred Polyphony Must Be Maintained Alive" (Zenit 26/6/06)
Pope says pop out of tune at Mass (The Age 28/6/06)
Pope starts the chant - stop the pop (Sydney Morning Herald 28/6/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Pope Benedict XVI on Sacred Music (St Cecilia Schola Cantorum)
A change of tune at the Vatican - and not only in the Secretariat of State (L'espresso/www.chiesa 27/6/06)
The first 100 days of Benedict XVI (The Religion Report 27/7/05)

28 Jun 2006