June 6, 2011

VATICAN CITY — In giving priority to Gregorian chant and to classical liturgical music, the Catholic Church is showcasing a tradition of beautiful prayer, Pope Benedict wrote.

Music at Mass should reflect the fact that the liturgy “is primarily the action of God through the Church, which has its history, its rich tradition and its creativity,” the pope said.

In a letter, released by the Vatican May 31, the pope marked the 100th anniversary of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music.

Sometimes people have presented Gregorian chant and traditional Church music as expressions “to be overcome or disregarded because they limited the freedom and creativity of the individual or community,” he said.

But people must recognize that the liturgy does not belong to an individual or parish as much as it belongs to the Church, the pope said.

Then they will begin to understand how, while some expressions of local culture are appropriate, priority should be given to expressions of the Church’s universal culture.

Music used at Mass must convey a “sense of prayer, dignity and beauty,” he said.

It should also help the faithful enter into prayer, including through use of music that reflects their culture, the pope said. It should also keep alive the tradition of Gregorian chant and polyphony.