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Musical Musings: Miscellaneous

To Promote Real "Sacred" Music

by Pope John Paul II

The following is an excerpt from a homily Pope John Paul II delivered to 20,000 musicians celebrating the first centenary of the Italian Saint Cecilia Association.

You, beloved brothers and sisters, are proud of belonging to an Association whose main purpose is to promote real "sacred" music. Thereby you consciously take your place in the whole centuries-old tradition of the Church, which, in worshipping the Holy Trinity, used music and song to express the Christian's deepest religious feelings: worship, thanksgiving, supplication, prayer, grief, and spiritual fervor. For this reason, the Second Vatican Council was able to affirm that "the musical tradition of the universal Church ... as a combination of sacred music and words, forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy" and that "sacred music is to be considered the more holy, the more closely connected it is with the liturgical action, whether making prayer more pleasing, promoting unity of minds, or conferring greater solemnity upon the sacred rites" (Sacrosanctum concilium, n.112).

Nearly eighty years have passed since the Motu proprio Inter pastoralis officii, issued by Saint Pius X on November 22, 1903, in a period difficult because of the conditions of "sacred" music, which -- as historians and specialists point out -- did not always maintain everywhere that decorum which becomes divine worship. The document of my holy predecessor was, for over half a century, a fertile stimulus of abundant fruits of true art and deep spirituality. The Second Vatican Council, for its part, published a Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy which, referring explicitly to the above-mentioned Motu proprio of Saint Pius X, dedicated an important part to sacred music (Sacrosanctum concilium, nos.112-121); and in March 1967, the then Sacred Congregation of Rites published an ample and articulate Instruction, entitled Musicam sacram.

Enough stress cannot be put on the cultural, formative, social and spiritual importance of sacred music; and the initiatives and efforts made in this field, at all levels, will merit the sincere approval of the Apostolic See, the bishops, and all the faithful, eager to worship God in a way not unsuitable or unworthy of his infinite majesty, but will also meet with the approval of all those persons who are looking with a certain concern at questionable phenomena and experiments regarding musical expressions in certain liturgical celebrations.

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