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Online Edition - Vol. VII, No. 9: December 2001 - January 2002

News

Parish Priests "absolutely essential", Holy Father says | Concerts in churches | Chant okay in commericals-why not in church | Pope asks Catholics to Fast, Pray on December 14

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Parish priests "absolutely essential", Holy Father says
"Where there are no priests", Pope John Paul II said in an address to the Congregation for Clergy, "with faith and perseverance, prayers must be offered, beseeching the Lord for numerous and holy vocations".

The pope addressed the plenary assembly of the Congregation for Clergy on November 23, on the theme "The Priest, Pastor and Guide of the Parish Community".

"It would be a fatal error", he said, "to resign ourselves to the current difficulties and behave as if we must prepare the Church of tomorrow, envisioned as deprived of priests. In this way the measures adopted to remedy the current lacks would end up being seriously detrimental for the [Church]".

He stressed the importance of good preaching, of teaching the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and of not allowing consultants to pastors to overstep their limited role.

Non-ordained people can never be pastors, he emphasized. "For a parish to have a priest as its own pastor is of fundamental importance", the Holy Father said. "The title of pastor is one specifically reserved to the priest. The Sacred Orders of priesthood represent, in fact, the indispensable and necessary condition to be appointed as a valid pastor. Other faithful may actively collaborate with him, even full time; but, as he has received the ministerial priesthood, they can never take his place as pastor.... The ecclesial community absolutely needs the ministerial priesthood to have Christ Head and Pastor present in it".

Source Vatican Information Service

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Concerts in churches
Although many Catholics today more often find beautiful Catholic music in concert halls than in churches, of late it has become common to hold music concerts in Catholic churches.

Questions inevitably arise about the appropriateness of using churches for purposes other than worship. Under what circumstances may concerts be held in a church?

Norms governing concerts in churches were given in a 1987 declaration of the Congregation of Divine Worship, Concerts in Churches. The declaration distinguishes sacred and religious music from other types. The term "sacred", it said, describes music appropriate for liturgical use. Religious music, while not liturgical, still makes reference to God, the saints, etc. All other types of music are not suitable for churches that are still being used for worship, because churches are "a sign of the Christian mystery" even when they are "used for ends other than those for which they were built". However, a bishop may designate a church that is no longer used for worship as an auditorium for musical performances (including secular music), so long as the music respects the sacred character of the church building.

Concerts in Churches also specifies circumstances under which concerts of sacred or religious music can be performed in a church that is in use. Ultimately, the decision whether to hold a concert in a place of worship and under what conditions belongs to the diocesan bishop. The bishop must grant permission on a case-by-case basis, not blanket permission for a series of concerts. The document suggests norms that local ordinaries might implement, including:

1) That admission to the concert be open and without charge;

2) That the Blessed Sacrament be removed from the nave of the church;

3) That both the performers and the audience observe a dress code;

4) That performers stay outside of the sanctuary, in order to ensure proper reverence for the altar, priest's chair (or cathedra) and the lectern.

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Chant okay in commercials why not in churches?
If contemporary Christian worship music simply uses what works for people today.... Why do commercials that are designed to suggest transcendent beauty, awe, and power often use traditional music, whether classical Gregorian chant or medieval polyphony? Why do they never employ the strains of the latest praise choruses?

If classical Christian music no longer communicates awe and reverence, as is claimed, why do the arbiters of contemporary culture frequently use it to convey the notion that a car is awesome and powerful?

James M. Kushiner
Touchstone, January-February 2001

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Pope asks Catholics to Fast, Pray on December 14
On November 18, before the Angelus in Saint Peter's Square, Pope John Paul II invited Catholics to fast on December 14 in solidarity with those "suffering the consequences of terrorism and war". The Vatican Information Service story reported that the Holy Father has invited the leaders of the world's religions to come to Assisi on January 24, 2002 to pray for "the promotion of an authentic peace".

"The international scene", the pope said, "continues to be troubled by worrisome tensions. We cannot forget the heavy sufferings that have afflicted, and continue to afflict, our many brothers and sisters in the world; the thousands of innocent victims of the very serious attacks of September 11; the numerous people forced to abandon their homes to face the unknown and, sometimes, a bloody death; women, the elderly and children exposed to the risks of dying of cold or hunger.

"In a situation made dramatic by the ever-present threat of terrorism, we feel the need to raise our pleas to God. The more insurmountable the difficulties seem and the darker the perspectives, it is then that our prayers must become more insistent to beseech God for the gift of reciprocal understanding, harmony and peace".

Recalling that the Old Testament teaches that "prayer acquires strength when accompanied by fasting and almsgiving", the pope observed that Christians practice these, especially during Advent and Lent.

"For their part", he added, "the faithful of Islam have just begun Ramadan, a month dedicated to fasting and prayer. We Christians will soon begin Advent as we prepare, through prayer, for Christmas, the day the 'Prince of Peace' was born".

The Holy Father urged "Catholics to live December 14 as a day of fasting, and to fervently pray God to give the world a stable peace, founded on justice, and to allow suitable solutions to be found for the many conflicts which torment the world. What people save in fasting can be given to the poor, especially those who suffer in this moment the consequences of terrorism and war".

In announcing the interreligious prayer service in Assisi, the Holy Father said, "In this historical moment, mankind needs to see gestures of peace and to listen to prayers of hope".

Source Vatican Information Service

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