This Tuesday morning, the Holy See released the text of a letter Pope Benedict XVI has sent to the Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, who is also the the Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, which this month marked its 100th anniversary with a conference here in Rome.
The Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music was founded by St. Pius X in 1910 under the name "School of Sacred Music." It opened in January of the next year, 1911, beginning a century of tireless and dedicated work to preserve, nurture and develop the Church’s musical patrimony, as a distinct and integral part of Catholic identity and a contribution to human culture.
In a letter to the institute’s Grand Chancellor, Pope Benedict stresses the substantial continuity in the Church’s official public teaching about sacred music, citing Paul VI and John Paul II, who, “in light of the Conciliar constitution Sacrosanctum concilium, reiterated the purpose of sacred music, which is, ‘the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful’ and the fundamental criteria of the corresponding tradition," which include, "a sense of prayer, dignity, and beauty," as well as, “adherence to liturgical texts and expressions.”
Pope Benedict also stressed the II Vatican Council’s teaching on the primacy of Gregorian chant as the supreme model of sacred music, and the need to give properly careful consideration to other expressive forms that make up the historical-liturgical patrimony of the Church, especially but not only polyphony; the importance of the schola cantorum, particularly in cathedral churches.
“It is not the individual or the group that celebrates the liturgy,” said Pope Benedict. “It is primarily God's action through the Church with the Church’s history, rich tradition,” and very own creativity.
Listen to Chris Altieri's report (Vatican Radio) : >>