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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

PONTIFICAL INSTITUTE OF SACRED MUSIC CELEBRATES A CENTURY

VATICAN CITY, 31 MAY 2011 (VIS) - On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, the Holy Father sent a letter to Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, chancellor of the institution. The letter, which was published today, was read at the institute last Thursday, 26 May.

  Benedict XVI recalled that Pope St. Pius X founded the Higher School of Sacred Music, which two decades later was elevated by Pius XI to a pontifical institute. The Holy Father stated that, in order to clearly understand the identity and mission of that Institute, it was necessary to know that St. Pius X founded it "eight years after having issued the Motu Proprio 'Tra le sollecitudini' on 22 November 1903, with which he brought about a profound reform in the area of sacred music, turning to the great tradition of the Church against the influence exercised by profane music, above all of the operatic type".

  This magisterial intervention, in order to be implemented in the universal Church, needed a center of studies and teaching that would faithfully and appropriately transmit the directives indicated by the Supreme Pontiff according to the authentic and glorious tradition that dates back to St. Gregory the Great. In the span of the last 100 years, this Institution has assimilated, developed, and expressed the doctrinal and pastoral teaching of the pontifical documents, as well as those of Vatican Council II, concerning sacred music, to illumine and guide the work of composers, chapel maestros, liturgists, musicians, and all instructors in this field".

  The Pope then emphasized how, since St. Pius X until today, "even though evolving naturally, there has been a substantial continuity of the Magisterium on sacred music". In particular he cited Paul VI and John Paul II who "in light of the conciliar constitution 'Sacrosanctum Concilium', reiterated the purpose of sacred music, that is to say, 'the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful' and the fundamental criteria of the corresponding tradition...: a sense of prayer, dignity, and beauty; full adherence to liturgical texts and expressions; the assembly's participation and, therefore, the legitimate adaptation to local culture, at the same time maintaining the universality of language; the primacy of Gregorian chant as the supreme model of sacred music and the careful assessment of other expressive forms that make up the historical-liturgical patrimony of the Church, especially but not just polyphony; and the importance of the 'schola cantorum', particularly in cathedral churches".

  "However, we always have to ask ourselves: Who is the true subject of the liturgy? The answer is simple: the Church. It is not the individual or the group that celebrates the liturgy, but it is primarily God's action through the Church with its history, its rich tradition, and its creativity. The liturgy, and thus sacred music, 'lives from a correct and constant relationship between healthy traditio and legitimate progressio', keeping always in mind that these two concepts ... are interwoven because 'tradition is a living reality that, therefore, encompasses within it the very principle of development and progress'", the Pope concluded.
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