Pope Benedict XVI (1927 – 2022) R.I.P.

Pope Benedict XVI visiting the Belém Cultural Center in Lisbon. Photo credit: M.Mazur/www.thepapalvisit.org.uk.
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Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the Belém Cultural Center in Lisbon in 2010. Photo credit: M.Mazur/www.thepapalvisit.org.uk.

As we recall the life of Joseph Ratzinger, many will focus attention on his theological treatises and his three volumes on Jesus of Nazareth, published under his personal name during his reign as successor of St. Peter the Apostle.

We recall as well his love of music and his attention to Mozart’s works. In The Tablet of July 11, 2015, Christa Pongratz and James Roberts told of an honorary doctorate he received from the Pontifical University of John Paul II University in Krakow.  They remarked:

“It remains indelibly impressed in my memory how, for example, as soon as the first notes resounded from Mozart’s ‘Coronation Mass’, the heavens practically opened and you experienced, very deeply, the Lord’s presence,” the 88-year-old Benedict said.

He recalled the “dramatic tension” after the Second Vatican Council between those who thought large choral works and orchestrated Masses no longer had a place in the liturgy and should only be performed in concert halls, and those who feared the cultural impoverishment this would lead to.

“There is great literature, great architecture, great art and great sculpture in the diverse cultures and religious fields. And there is music everywhere. But you will not find music of the magnitude of that which the Christian world brought forth – the music of Palestrina, Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven and Bruckner – in any other cultural region,” Benedict said. “This music is unique…it must not disappear from the liturgy as its presence means partaking in the mystery of faith in a very special way.”

As we recall the theological insights of Pope Benedict XVI we might also consider the way in which music inspires a reflection on the hints of the divine order that are offered to those who listen for the sublime and bring this gift into our daily lives.

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