Domenico Cardinal Bartoluccim conducts during
Solemn Pontifical Mass in Saint Peter in Rome (Source Orbis Catholicus)
Q: What are the initiatives that Benedict XVI should take to realize this plan in a world of discotheques and iPods?
A: The great repertoire of sacred music that has been handed down to us from the past is made up of Masses, offertories, responsories: formerly there was no such thing as a liturgy without music. Today there is no place for this repertoire in the new liturgy, which is a discordant commotion – and it’s useless to pretend that it’s not. It is as if Michelangelo had been asked to paint the general judgment on a postage stamp! You tell me, please, how it is possible today to perform a Credo, or even a Gloria. First we would need to return, at least for the solemn or feast day Masses, to a liturgy that gives music its proper place and expresses itself in the universal language of the Church, Latin. In the Sistine, after the liturgical reform, I was able to keep alive the traditional repertoire of the Chapel only in the concerts. Just think – the Missa Papae Marcelli by Palestrina has not been sung in St. Peter’s since the time of Pope John XXIII! We were graciously granted the permission to perform it during a commemoration of Palestrina, and they wanted it without the Credo, but that time I would not budge, and the entire work was performed.
Q: Do you think that the musical traditions of the past are disappearing?
A: It stands to reason: if there is not the continuity that keeps them alive, they are destined to oblivion, and the current liturgy certainly does not favor it... I am an optimist by nature, but I judge the current situation realistically, and I believe that a Napoleon without generals can do little. Today the motto is “go to the people, look them in the eyes,” but it’s all a bunch of empty talk! By doing this we end up celebrating ourselves, and the mystery and beauty of God are hidden from us. In reality, we are witnessing the decline of the West. An African bishop once told me, “We hope that the council doesn’t take Latin out of the liturgy, otherwise in my country a Babel of dialects will assert itself.”
Q: Was John Paul II somewhat accommodating in these matters?
A: In spite of a number of appeals, the liturgical crisis became more deeply entrenched during his pontificate. Sometimes it was the papal celebrations themselves that contributed to this new tendency with dancing and drums. Once I left, saying, “Call me back when the show is over!” You understand well that if these are the examples coming from St. Peter’s, appeals and complaints aren’t of any use. I have always objected to these things. And even though they kicked me out, ostensibly because I had turned 80, I don’t regret what I did.
Q: What did it once mean to sing in the Sistine Chapel?
A: The place and the choir formed a unity, just as music and the liturgy formed a unity. Music was not a mere ornament, but it brought the liturgical text to life, and the cantor was something like a priest.
Read the entire interview www.chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/72901?eng=y