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Online Edition - March 2006, Vol. XII, No. 1

Selected Quotes on Sacred Song 1963-2003

The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn Liturgy.… [S]acred music is to be considered the more holy in proportion as it is more closely connected with the liturgical action, whether it adds delight to prayer, fosters unity of minds, or confers greater solemnity upon the sacred rites. Sacrosanctum Concilium 112 (1963)

Religious singing by the people is to be intelligently fostered so that in devotions and sacred exercises, as also during liturgical services, the voices of the faithful may ring out according to the norms and requirements of the rubrics.
Sacrosanctum Concilium 118 (1963)

The episcopal conferences have had the weighty responsibility of preparing the translations of the liturgical books. Immediate need occasionally led to the use of provisional translations, approved ad interim. But now the time has come to reflect upon certain difficulties that have subsequently emerged, to remedy certain defects or inaccuracies, to complete partial translations, to compose or approve chants to be used in the Liturgy, to ensure respect for the texts approved and lastly to publish liturgical books in a form that both testifies to the stability achieved and is worthy of the mysteries being celebrated. -- Pope John Paul II -- Vicesimus Quintus Annus 20 (25th Anniversary of SC, December 4, 1988)

Hymns and sacred music have an essential role in reinforcing everyone’s communion, in a form very sensitive to the acceptance and assimilation of the word of God, through the unity of prayer. The biblical importance of singing, the vehicle of wisdom, is well known “Psallite sapienter”, the psalmist says (Ps 47 [46]:8). See to it that beautiful hymns based on worthy texts and in harmony with a meaningful content are chosen and composed. Even more generally than the hymn properly so-called, liturgical music has the evocative capacity to interweave theological meaning and a sense of formal beauty and poetic insight. -- Pope John Paul II -- Ad limina address to the bishops of France “On the Pastoral Care of the Liturgy” (March 8, 1997)

It is important to devote attention to the songs used by the assembly, since singing is a particularly apt way to express a joyful heart, accentuating the solemnity of the celebration and fostering the sense of a common faith and a shared love. Care must be taken to ensure the quality, both of the texts and of the melodies, so that what is proposed today as new and creative will conform to liturgical requirements and be worthy of the Church’s tradition which, in the field of sacred music, boasts a priceless heritage. -- Pope John Paul II -- Dies Domini 50 (May 31, 1998)

Sung texts and liturgical hymns have a particular importance and efficacy. Especially on Sunday, the “Day of the Lord”, the singing of the faithful gathered for the celebration of Holy Mass, no less than the prayers, the readings and the homily, express in an authentic way the message of the Liturgy while fostering a sense of common faith and communion in charity. If they are used widely by the faithful, they should remain relatively fixed so that confusion among the people may be avoided. Within five years from the publication of this Instruction, the Conferences of Bishops, necessarily in collaboration with the national and diocesan Commissions and with other experts, shall provide for the publication of a directory or repertory of texts intended for liturgical singing. This document shall be transmitted for the necessary recognitio to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. -- Liturgiam authenticam 108 (March 28, 2001)

I urge the bishops and the Congregation to make every effort to insure that liturgical translations are faithful to the original [texts] of the respective typical editions in the Latin language. A translation, in fact, is not an exercise in creativity, but a meticulous task of preserving the meaning of the original without changes, omissions or additions. -- Pope John Paul II -- Address to Congregation for Divine Worship, 6 (September 21, 2001)

It is not, of course, a question of imitating Gregorian chant but rather of ensuring that new compositions are imbued with the same spirit that inspired and little by little came to shape it. Only an artist who is profoundly steeped in the sensus Ecclesiae can attempt to perceive and express in melody the truth of the Mystery that is celebrated in the Liturgy.… Renewed and deeper thought about the principles that must be the basis of the formation and dissemination of a high-quality repertoire is therefore required. Only in this way will musical expression be granted to serve appropriately its ultimate aim, which is “the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful”. -- Pope John Paul II -- Chirograph on Sacred Music, 12 (November 22, 2003).

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