Music is a universal language: Pope Francis sings praises of Catholic choirs

Pope Francis greets participants in a gathering of choir singers, musicians, and directors at Paul VI Hall at the Vatican on June 8, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jun 8, 2024 / 13:50 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis praised Catholic choir members of all ages on Saturday, calling music “a universal and immediate language.”

Choir members and musicians provide a “precious service” to the Church, he said on the morning of June 8 in an audience with parish and diocesan choirs, scholæ cantorum, directors, and musicians.

Speaking in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, the pope said, “Music creates harmony, thereby reaching everyone, consoling those who suffer, rekindling enthusiasm in the downhearted, and bringing forth wonderful values such as beauty and poetry, which reflect God’s harmonious light.

“Music, indeed,” he added, “is a universal and immediate language that requires no translation or elaborate explanation.”

Approximately 300 singers and 80 musicians are taking part this weekend in the 4th International Meeting of Choirs at the Vatican.

In addition to the meeting with Pope Francis, participants in the June 7-9 gathering will put on a free concert in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on the evening of June 8 and sing at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the morning of June 9. The event also had two days of talks on topics such as sacred music and the history of Gregorian chant with practical workshops for musicians and choristers.

“You have come together in the Vatican to explore more deeply the significance of music in service to the liturgy,” the pope said. “It is very good to see you here, coming as you do from many different places yet all united by faith and a passion for music.”

Sweet! Pope Francis visits with a baby in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on June 8 during a meeting with choir members. Credit: Vatican Media

Francis encouraged the musicians and choir members to spend time in prayer and meditation on God’s word “to maintain the lofty spiritual tenor” of their vocation to enrich the Mass and other liturgies with music.

You enrich and add beauty to the Mass “not only with your voices but also with your minds and hearts,” he said, “and by enthusiastically living your daily lives accordingly, so that your music may increasingly be a joyful self-offering to God, who with his love attracts, enlightens, and transforms everything.”

The weekend was organized by the Choir of the Diocese of Rome, which is celebrating 40 years since its foundation. The choir’s director is Monsignor Marco Frisina, a composer whose works have been hugely influential in the Church both in Italy and on the world stage — particularly at World Youth Days.

Frisina’s “Jesus Christ You Are My Life” gained international recognition in the Catholic world after it was the anthem of World Youth Day during the Great Jubilee in 2000.

The music director and composer told EWTN News this week that he has written a new song for young people titled“Christ is My Hope” for the 2025 Jubilee Year.

Frisina said he was thinking about “how important it is to sing about the joy of hope.”

“Because everyone thinks with sadness about the things that happen — war, violence, hatred, enmity — but it’s good to sing instead to counter all that, [to sing] that Christ is our joy and our hope,” he said. “And Christ is risen.”

Pope Francis addresses participants of the 4th International Meeting of Choirs during a meeting in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on June 8, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

During his speech on Saturday, Pope Francis said the singers “are custodians of a centuries-old treasure of art, beauty, and spirituality,” and he encouraged them to “not let the mentality of the world taint it with self-interest, ambition, jealousy, or division.”

The pontiff also praised the spontaneity and innocence of children, which he said “speaks louder than the best of speeches.”

“We must take care of children because they are the future, they are hope,” he added. “Children are the privileged ones. For this reason, Jesus said: ‘It is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’” 

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