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Monday, November 12, 2012


Vatican City,  (VIS) - "Sacred music can support faith and contribute to new evangelisation", said the Pope to members of the "Santa Cecilia" Italian musical association gathered in Rome.

In his address to the group, Benedict XVI, noting that this event coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II and the proclamation of the Year of Faith, spoke at length about the teachings of the Conciliar Constitution on the liturgy, and in particular the part referring to sacred music.

He said, "on the subject of the faith, our thoughts naturally tend towards St. Augustine, … and the important role in his conversion played by psalms and hymns in the liturgies presided by St. Ambrose. If indeed faith is born of listening to the Word of God - listening not only with the senses, but also allowing the passage from the senses to the mind and the heart - there is no doubt that music and above all song are able to confer greater communicative power to psalms and canticles. Among the charisms of St. Ambrose was a notable musical capacity and sensibility and, following his consecration as bishop of Milan, he dedicated this gift to the service of faith and evangelisation".

Benedict XVI observed that "the Constitution 'Sacrosanctum Concilium', in accordance with the tradition of the Church, teaches that 'sacred song united to the words ... forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy'. Why 'necessary' and 'integral'? Certainly not for purely aesthetic reasons, in a superficial sense, but because by virtue of beauty, it contributes to nurturing and expressing faith, and therefore to the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful, which are the aims of sacred music. Music … is not solely an accessory to or external embellishment of the liturgy, but is itself liturgy".

Referring to the relationship between sacred song and new evangelisation, the Pope remarked that the Conciliar Constitution on the liturgy reminds us of "the importance of sacred music in the 'missio ad gentes' and exhorts us to give due recognition to traditional forms of music. But it is precisely in countries of ancient evangelisation … that sacred music, with its great tradition belonging to our western culture can, and indeed does, have an important role to play in encouraging the rediscovery of God, a renewed approach to the Christian message and the mysteries of faith".

The Pope recalled the example of the poet Paul Claudel, whose conversion occurred while he listened to the 'Magnificat' during Christmas Vespers at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris. "But, such illustrious cases aside, let us consider how many hearts have been deeply touched by listening to sacred music, and how many, like Claudel, have been newly drawn to God by the beauty of liturgical music". Benedict XVI urged the members of the association to "make efforts to improve the quality of liturgical song, to recover and promote the great musical tradition of the Church, that finds two of its most exalted expressions in Gregorian chant and polyphony".

"The active participation of all the People of God in the liturgy cannot consist only of speaking, but also of listening, welcoming the Word with the senses and the spirit, and this is true also of sacred music".

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