VATICAN CITY, July 15, 2015 (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Emeritus Benedict has returned to the Vatican after a two-week stay at Castel Gandolfo. Before his return trip Tuesday, he thanked the mayor for her hospitality and left a book as a gift on the 10th anniversary of his election as pope.
During his stay in Castel Gandolfo, Pope Benedict emerged from his seclusion to deliver a rare lecture — his first publicly delivered lecture since he stepped down from his pontificate. On July 4, the Pontifical John Paul II University of Krakow and the Krakow Academy of Music awarded the Pope Emeritus with two honorary doctorates, after which he gave a lecture on the importance of sacred music.
In his speech, he noted the tension between those who desired to follow the words of the Constitution on the Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council that the "patrimony of sacred music be preserved and incremented with great care" and those from the Liturgical Movement, who wanted to update and simplify the music of the Mass. Pope Benedict made his leanings clear:
I myself grew up in the Salisburghese marked by the great tradition of this city. It was a given here that Sunday Masses accompanied by the choir and orchestra were an integral part of our experience of the faith in the celebration of the liturgy. Indelibly impressed in my memory, for instance, is how, when the first notes of Mozart’s Coronation Mass sounded, Heaven virtually opened and the presence of the Lord was experienced very profoundly.
After discussing the tension between the great tradition of sacred music and the modernizing tendency of the past few decades, he noted that "in no other cultural ambit is there music of equal grandeur to that born in the ambit of the Christian faith: from Palestrina to Bach, to Handel, up to Mozart, Beethoven and Bruckner. Western music is something unique, which has no equal in other cultures. And this — it seems to me — should make us think."
He went on to say this music best engenders a true encounter with the divine, and must be preserved.
For me, that music is a demonstration of the truth of Christianity. Wherever such an answer is developed, there has been an encounter with truth, with the true Creator of the world. Therefore, great sacred music is a reality of theological rank and of permanent meaning for the faith of the whole of Christianity, even if it is not necessary that it be performed always and everywhere. On the other hand, however, it is also clear that it cannot disappear from the liturgy and that its presence can be an altogether special way of participation in the sacred celebration, in the mystery of the faith.
Pope Benedict's speech is consistent with the great theme of his pontificate: that Vatican II was meant to enrich and not disrupt Tradition — what the Pope has always called the "hermeneutic of continuity."