To Our Venerable Brethren, the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and other
Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See: Health and Apostolic
The subject of sacred music has always been very close to Our heart. Hence it has
seemed appropriate to us in this encyclical letter to give an orderly explanation of the
topic and also to answer somewhat more completely several questions which have been raised
and discussed during the past decades. We are doing so in order that this noble and
distinguished art may contribute more every day to greater splendor in the celebration of
divine worship and to the more effective nourishment of spiritual life among the faithful.
2. At the same time We have desired to grant what many of you, venerable brethren, have
requested in our wisdom and also what has been asked by outstanding masters of this
liberal art and distinguished students of sacred music at meetings devoted to the subject.
The experience of pastoral life and the advances being made in the study of this art have
persuaded Us that this step is timely.
3. We hope, therefore, that what St. Pius X rightly decreed in the document which he
accurately called the "legal code of sacred music may be confirmed and inculcated
anew, shown in a new light and strengthened by new proofs. We hope that the noble art of
sacred music--adapted to contemporary conditions and in some way enriched--may ever more
perfectly accomplish its mission.
4. Music is among the many and great gifts of nature with which God, in Whom is the
harmony of the most perfect concord and the most perfect order, has enriched men, whom He
has created in His image and likeness. Together with the other liberal arts, music
contributes to spiritual joy and the delight of the soul.
5. On this subject St. Augustine has accurately written: "Music, that is the
science or the sense of proper modulation, is likewise given by God's generosity to
mortals having rational souls in order to lead them to higher things."
6. No one, therefore, will be astonished that always and everywhere, even among pagan
peoples, sacred song and the art of music have been used to ornament and decorate
religious ceremonies. This is proved by many documents, both ancient and new. No one will
be astonished that these arts have been used especially for the worship of the true and
sovereign God from the earliest times. Miraculously preserved unharmed from the Red Sea by
God's power, the people of God sang a song of victory to the Lord, and Miriam, the sister
of Moses, their leader, endowed with prophetic inspiration, sang with the people while
playing a tambourine.
7. Later, when the ark of God was taken from the house of Abinadab to the city of
David, the king himself and "all Israel played before the Lord on all manner of
instruments made of wood, on harps and lutes and timbrels and cornets and
cymbals." King David himself established the order of the music and singing used
for sacred worship. This order was restored after the people's return from exile and
was observed faithfully until the Divine Redeemer's coming.
8. St. Paul showed us clearly that sacred chant was used and held in honor from the
very beginning in the Church founded by the Divine Redeemer when he wrote to the
Ephesians: "Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns
and spiritual songs." He indicates that this custom of singing hymns was in force
in the assemblies of Christians when he says: "When you come together each of you has
9. Pliny testifies that the same thing held true after apostolic times. He writes that
apostates from the Faith said that "this was their greatest fault or error, that they
were accustomed to gather before dawn on a certain day and sing a hymn to Christ as if He
were God." These words of the Roman proconsul in Bithynia show very clearly that
the sound of church singing was not completely silenced even in times of persecution.
10. Tertullian confirms this when he says that in the assemblies of the Christians
"the Scriptures are read, the psalms are sung, sermons are preached."
11. There are many statements of the fathers and ecclesiastical writers testifying that
after freedom and peace had been restored to the Church the psalms and hymns of liturgical
worship were in almost daily use. Moreover, new forms of sacred chant were gradually
created and new types of songs were invented. These were developed more and more by the
choir schools attached to cathedrals and other important churches, especially by the
School of Singers in Rome.
12. According to tradition, Our predecessor of happy memory, St. Gregory the Great,
carefully collected and wisely arranged all that had been handed down by the elders and
protected the purity and integrity of sacred chant with fitting laws and regulations.
13. From Rome, the Roman mode of singing gradually spread to other parts of the West.
Not only was it enriched by new forms and modes, but a new kind of sacred singing, the
religious song, frequently sung in the vernacular, was also brought into use.
14. The choral chant began to be called "Gregorian" after St. Gregory, the
man who revived it. It attained new beauty in almost all parts of Christian Europe after
the 8th or 9th century because of its accompaniment by a new musical instrument called the
"organ." Little by little, beginning in the 9th century, polyphonic singing was
added to this choral chant. The study and use of polyphonic singing were developed more
and more during the centuries that followed and were raised to a marvelous perfection
under the guidance of magnificent composers during the 15th and 16th centuries.
15. Since the Church always held this polyphonic chant in the highest esteem, it
willingly admitted this type of music even in the Roman basilicas and in pontifical
ceremonies in order to increase the glory of the sacred rites. Its power and splendor were
increased when the sounds of the organ and other musical instruments were joined with the
voices of the singers.
16. Thus, with the favor and under the auspices of the Church the study of sacred music
has gone a long way over the course of the centuries. In this journey, although sometimes
slowly and laboriously, it has gradually progressed from the simple and ingenuous
Gregorian modes to great and magnificent works of art. To these works not only the human
voice, but also the organ and other musical instruments, add dignity, majesty and a
17. The progress of this musical art clearly shows how sincerely the Church has desired
to render divine worship ever more splendid and more pleasing to the Christian people. It
likewise shows why the Church must insist that this art remain within its proper limits
and must prevent anything profane and foreign to divine worship from entering into sacred
music along with genuine progress, and perverting it.
18. The Sovereign Pontiffs have always diligently fulfilled their obligation to be
vigilant in this matter. The Council of Trent also forbids "those musical works in
which something lascivious or impure is mixed with organ music or singing." In
addition, not to mention numerous other Sovereign Pontiffs, Our predecessor Benedict XIV
of happy memory in an encyclical letter dated February 19, 1749, which prepared for a Holy
Year and was outstanding for its great learning and abundance of proofs, particularly
urged Bishops to firmly forbid the illicit and immoderate elements which had arrogantly
been inserted into sacred music.
19. Our predecessors Leo XII, Pius VII, Gregory XVI, Pius IX, and Leo XIII followed
the same line.
20. Nevertheless it can rightly be said that Our predecessor of immortal memory, St.
Pius X, made as it were the highest contribution to the reform and renewal of sacred music
when he restated the principles and standards handed down from the elders and wisely
brought them together as the conditions of modern times demanded. Finally, like Our
immediate predecessor of happy memory, Pius XI, in his Apostolic Constitution Divini
cultus sanctitatem (The Holiness of Divine Worship), issued December 20, 1929, We
ourself in the encyclical Mediator Dei (On the Sacred Liturgy), issued November 20,
1947, have enriched and confirmed the orders of the older Pontiffs.
21. Certainly no one will be astonished that the Church is so vigilant and careful
about sacred music. It is not a case of drawing up laws of aesthetics or technical rules
that apply to the subject of music. It is the intention of the Church, however, to protect
sacred music against anything that might lessen its dignity, since it is called upon to
take part in something as important as divine worship.
22. On this score sacred music obeys laws and rules which are no different from those
prescribed for all religious art and, indeed, for art in general. Now we are aware of the
fact that during recent years some artists, gravely offending against Christian piety,
have dared to bring into churches works devoid of any religious inspiration and completely
at variance with the right rules of art. They try to justify this deplorable conduct by
plausible-looking arguments which they claim are based on the nature and character of art
itself. They go on to say that artistic inspiration is free and that it is wrong to impose
upon it laws and standards extraneous to art, whether they are religious or moral, since
such rules seriously hurt the dignity of art and place bonds and shackles on the activity
of an inspired artist.
23. Arguments of this kind raise a question which is certainly difficult and serious,
and which affects all art and every artist. It is a question which is not to be answered
by an appeal to the principles of art or of aesthetics, but which must be decided in terms
of the supreme principle of the final end, which is the inviolate and sacred rule for
every man and every human act.
24. The ordination and direction of man to his ultimate end--which is God--by absolute
and necessary law based on the nature and the infinite perfection of God Himself is so
solid that not even God could exempt anyone from it. This eternal and unchangeable law
commands that man himself and all his actions should manifest and imitate, so far as
possible, God's infinite perfection for the praise and glory of the Creator. Since man is
born to attain this supreme end, he ought to conform himself and through his actions
direct all powers of his body and his soul, rightly ordered among themselves and duly
subjected to the end they are meant to attain, to the divine Model. Therefore even art and
works of art must be judged in the light of their conformity and concord with man's last
25. Art certainly must be listed among the noblest manifestations of human genius. Its
purpose is to express in human works the infinite divine beauty of which it is, as it
were, the reflection. Hence that outworn dictum "art for art's sake" entirely
neglects the end for which every creature is made. Some people wrongly assert that art
should be exempted entirely from every rule which does not spring from art itself. Thus
this dictum either has no worth at all or is gravely offensive to God Himself, the Creator
and Ultimate End.
26. Since the freedom of the artist is not a blind instinct to act in accordance with
his own whim or some desire for novelty, it is in no way restricted or destroyed, but
actually ennobled and perfected, when it is made subject to the divine law.
27. Since this is true of works of art in general, it obviously applies also to
religious and sacred art. Actually religious art is even more closely bound to God and the
promotion of His praise and glory, because its only purpose is to give the faithful the
greatest aid in turning their minds piously to God through the works it directs to their
senses of sight and hearing. Consequently the artist who does not profess the truths of
the faith or who strays far from God in his attitude or conduct should never turn his hand
to religious art. He lacks, as it were, that inward eye with which he might see what God's
majesty and His worship demand. Nor can he hope that his works, devoid of religion as they
are, will ever really breathe the piety and faith that befit God's temple and His
holiness, even though they may show him to be an expert artist who is endowed with visible
talent. Thus he cannot hope that his works will be worthy of admission into the sacred
buildings of the Church, the guardian and arbiter of religious life.
28. But the artist who is firm in his faith and leads a life worthy of a Christian, who
is motivated by the love of God and reverently uses the powers the Creator has given him,
expresses and manifests the truths he holds and the piety he possesses so skillfully,
beautifully and pleasingly in colors and lines or sounds and harmonies that this sacred
labor of art is an act of worship and religion for him. It also effectively arouses and
inspires people to profess the faith and cultivate piety.
29. The Church has always honored and always will honor this kind of artist. It opens
wide the doors of its temples to them because what these people contribute through their
art and industry is a welcome and important help to the Church in carrying out its
apostolic ministry more effectively.
30. These laws and standards for religious art apply in a stricter and holier way to
sacred music because sacred music enters more intimately into divine worship than many
other liberal arts, such as architecture, painting and sculpture. These last serve to
prepare a worthy setting for the sacred ceremonies. Sacred music, however, has an
important place in the actual performance of the sacred ceremonies and rites themselves.
Hence the Church must take the greatest care to prevent whatever might be unbecoming to
sacred worship or anything that might distract the faithful in attendance from lifting
their minds up to God from entering into sacred music, which is the servant, as it were,
of the sacred liturgy.
31. The dignity and lofty purpose of sacred music consist in the fact that its lovely
melodies and splendor beautify and embellish the voices of the priest who offers Mass and
of the Christian people who praise the Sovereign God. Its special power and excellence
should lift up to God the minds of the faithful who are present. It should make the
liturgical prayers of the Christian community more alive and fervent so that everyone can
praise and beseech the Triune God more powerfully, more intently and more effectively.
32. The power of sacred music increases the honor given to God by the Church in union
with Christ, its Head. Sacred music likewise helps to increase the fruits which the
faithful, moved by the sacred harmonies, derive from the holy liturgy. These fruits, as
daily experience and many ancient and modern literary sources show, manifest themselves in
a life and conduct worthy of a Christian.
33. St. Augustine, speaking of chants characterized by "beautiful voice and most
apt melody," says: "I feel that our souls are moved to the ardor of piety by the
sacred words more piously and powerfully when these words are sung than when they are not
sung, and that all the affections of our soul in their variety have modes of their own in
song and chant by which they are stirred up by an indescribable and secret
34. It is easy to infer from what has just been said that the dignity and force of
sacred music are greater the closer sacred music itself approaches to the supreme act of
Christian worship, the Eucharistic sacrifice of the altar. There can be nothing more
exalted or sublime than its function of accompanying with beautiful sound the voice of the
priest offering up the Divine Victim, answering him joyfully with the people who are
present and enhancing the whole liturgical ceremony with its noble art.
35. To this highest function of sacred music We must add another which closely
resembles it, that is its function of accompanying and beautifying other liturgical
ceremonies, particularly the recitation of the Divine Office in choir. Thus the highest
honor and praise must be given to liturgical music.
36. We must also hold in honor that music which is not primarily a part of the sacred
liturgy, but which by its power and purpose greatly aids religion. This music is therefore
rightly called religious music. The Church has possessed such music from the beginning and
it has developed happily under the Church's auspices. As experience shows, it can exercise
great and salutary force and power on the souls of the faithful, both when it is used in
churches during non-liturgical services and ceremonies, or when it is used outside
churches at various solemnities and celebrations.
37. The tunes of these hymns, which are often sung in the language of the people, are
memorized with almost no effort or labor. The mind grasps the words and the music. They
are frequently repeated and completely understood. Hence even boys and girls, learning
these sacred hymns at a tender age, are greatly helped by them to know, appreciate and
memorize the truths of the faith. Therefore they also serve as a sort of catechism. These
religious hymns bring pure and chaste joy to young people and adults during times of
recreation. They give a kind of religious grandeur to their more solemn assemblies and
gatherings. They bring pious joy, sweet consolation and spiritual progress to Christian
families themselves. Hence these popular religious hymns are of great help to the Catholic
apostolate and should be carefully cultivated and promoted.
38. Therefore when We praised the manifold power and the apostolic effectiveness of
sacred music, We spoke of something that can be a source of great joy and solace to all
who have in any way dedicated themselves to its study and practice. All who use the art
they possess to compose such musical compositions, to teach them or to perform them by
singing or using musical instruments, undoubtedly exercise in many ways a true and genuine
apostolate. They will receive from Christ the Lord the generous rewards and honors of
apostles for the work they have done so faithfully.
39. Consequently they should hold their work in high esteem, not only as artists and
teachers of art, but also as ministers of Christ the Lord and as His helpers in the work
of the apostolate. They should likewise show in their conduct and their lives the dignity
of their calling.
40. Since, as We have just shown, the dignity and effectiveness of sacred music and
religious chant are so great, it is very necessary that all of their parts should be
diligently and carefully arranged to produce their salutary results in a fitting manner.
41. First of all the chants and sacred music which are immediately joined with the
Church's liturgical worship should be conducive to the lofty end for which they are
intended. This music--as our predecessor Pius X has already wisely warned us--"must
possess proper liturgical qualities, primarily holiness and goodness of form; from which
its other note, universality, is derived."
42. It must be holy. It must not allow within itself anything that savors of the
profane nor allow any such thing to slip into the melodies in which it is expressed. The
Gregorian chant which has been used in the Church over the course of so many centuries,
and which may be called, as it were, its patrimony, is gloriously outstanding for this
43. This chant, because of the close adaptation of the melody to the sacred text, is
not only most intimately conformed to the words, but also in a way interprets their force
and efficacy and brings delight to the minds of the hearers. It does this by the use of
musical modes that are simple and plain, but which are still composed with such sublime
and holy art that they move everyone to sincere admiration and constitute an almost
inexhaustible source from which musicians and composers draw new melodies.
44. It is the duty of all those to whom Christ the Lord has entrusted the task of
guarding and dispensing the Church's riches to preserve this precious treasure of
Gregorian chant diligently and to impart it generously to the Christian people. Hence what
Our predecessors, St. Pius X, who is rightly called the renewer of Gregorian chant,
and Pius XI  have wisely ordained and taught, We also, in view of the outstanding
qualities which genuine Gregorian chant possesses, will and prescribe that this be done.
In the performance of the sacred liturgical rites this same Gregorian chant should be most
widely used and great care should be taken that it should be performed properly, worthily
and reverently. And if, because of recently instituted feast days, new Gregorian melodies
must be composed, this should be done by true masters of the art. It should be done in
such a way that these new compositions obey the laws proper to genuine Gregorian chant and
are in worthy harmony with the older melodies in their virtue and purity.
45. If these prescriptions are really observed in their entirety, the requirements of
the other property of sacred music--that property by virtue of which it should be an
example of true art--will be duly satisfied. And if in Catholic churches throughout the
entire world Gregorian chant sounds forth without corruption or diminution, the chant
itself, like the sacred Roman liturgy, will have a characteristic of universality, so that
the faithful, wherever they may be, will hear music that is familiar to them and a part of
their own home. In this way they may experience, with much spiritual consolation, the
wonderful unity of the Church. This is one of the most important reasons why the Church so
greatly desires that the Gregorian chant traditionally associated with the Latin words of
the sacred liturgy be used.
46. We are not unaware that, for serious reasons, some quite definite exceptions have
been conceded by the Apostolic See. We do not want these exceptions extended or propagated
more widely, nor do We wish to have them transferred to other places without due
permission of the Holy See. Furthermore, even where it is licit to use these exemptions,
local Ordinaries and the other pastors should take great care that the faithful from their
earliest years should learn at least the easier and more frequently used Gregorian
melodies, and should know how to employ them in the sacred liturgical rites, so that in
this way also the unity and the universality of the Church may shine forth more powerfully
47. Where, according to old or immemorial custom, some popular hymns are sung in the
language of the people after the sacred words of the liturgy have been sung in Latin
during the solemn Eucharistic sacrifice, local Ordinaries can allow this to be done
"if, in the light of the circumstances of the locality and the people, they believe
that (custom) cannot prudently be removed." The law by which it is forbidden to
sing the liturgical words themselves in the language of the people remains in force,
according to what has been said.
48. In order that singers and the Christian people may rightly understand the meaning
of the liturgical words joined to the musical melodies, it has pleased Us to make Our own
the exhortation made by the Fathers of the Council of Trent. "Pastors and all those
who have care of souls," were especially urged that "often, during the
celebration of Mass, they or others whom they delegate explain something about what is
read in the Mass and, among other things, tell something about the mystery of this most
holy sacrifice. This is to be done particularly on Sundays and holy days."
49. This should be done especially at the time when catechetical instruction is being
given to the Christian people. This may be done more easily and readily in this age of
ours than was possible in times past, because translations of the liturgical texts into
the vernacular tongues and explanations of these texts in books and pamphlets are
available. These works, produced in almost every country by learned writers, can
effectively help and enlighten the faithful to understand and share in what is said by the
sacred ministers in the Latin language.
50. It is quite obvious that what We have said briefly here about Gregorian chant
applies mainly to the Latin Roman Rite of the Church. It can also, however, be applied to
a certain extent to the liturgical chants of other rites--either to those of the West,
such as the Ambrosian, Gallican or Mozarabic, or to the various eastern rites.
51. For as all of these display in their liturgical ceremonies and formulas of prayer
the marvelous abundance of the Church, they also, in their various liturgical chants,
preserve treasures which must be guarded and defended to prevent not only their complete
disappearance, but also any partial loss or distortion.
52. Among the oldest and most outstanding monuments of sacred music the liturgical
chants of the different eastern rites hold a highly important place. Some of the melodies
of these chants, modified in accordance with the character of the Latin liturgy, had a
great influence on the composition of the musical works of the Western Church itself. It
is Our hope that the selection of sacred eastern rite hymns--which the Pontifical
Institute of Oriental Studies, with the help of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music,
is busily working to complete--will achieve good doctrinal and practical results. Thus
eastern rite seminarians, well trained in sacred chant, can make a significant
contribution to enhancing the beauty of God's house after they have been ordained priests.
53. It is not Our intention in what We have just said in praise and commendation of the
Gregorian chant to exclude sacred polyphonic music from the rites of the Church. If this
polyphonic music is endowed with the proper qualities, it can be of great help in
increasing the magnificence of divine worship and of moving the faithful to religious
dispositions. Everyone certainly knows that many polyphonic compositions, especially those
that date from the 16th century, have an artistic purity and richness of melody which
render them completely worthy of accompanying and beautifying the Church's sacred rites.
54. Although over the course of the centuries genuine polyphonic art gradually declined
and profane melodies often crept into it, during recent decades the indefatigable labors
of experts have brought about a restoration. The works of the old composers have been
carefully studied and proposed as models to be imitated and rivaled by modern composers.
55. So it is that in the basilicas, cathedrals and churches of religious communities
these magnificent works of the old masters and the polyphonic compositions of more recent
musicians can be performed, contributing greatly to the beauty of the sacred rite.
Likewise We know that simpler but genuinely artistic polyphonic compositions are often
sung even in smaller churches.
56. The Church favors all these enterprises. As Our predecessor of immortal memory, St.
Pius X, says, the Church "unceasingly encourages and favors the progress of the arts,
admitting for religious use all the good and the beautiful that the mind of man has
discovered over the course of the centuries, but always respecting the liturgical
57. These laws warn that great prudence and care should be used in this serious matter
in order to keep out of churches polyphonic music which, because of its heavy and
bombastic style, might obscure the sacred words of the liturgy by a kind of exaggeration,
interfere with the conduct of the liturgical service or, finally, lower the skill and
competence of the singers to the disadvantage of sacred worship.
58. These norms must be applied to the use of the organ or other musical instruments.
Among the musical instruments that have a place in church the organ rightly holds the
principal position, since it is especially fitted for the sacred chants and sacred rites.
It adds a wonderful splendor and a special magnificence to the ceremonies of the Church.
It moves the souls of the faithful by the grandeur and sweetness of its tones. It gives
minds an almost heavenly joy and it lifts them up powerfully to God and to higher things.
59. Besides the organ, other instruments can be called upon to give great help in
attaining the lofty purpose of sacred music, so long as they play nothing profane nothing
clamorous or strident and nothing at variance with the sacred services or the dignity of
the place. Among these the violin and other musical instruments that use the bow are
outstanding because, when they are played by themselves or with other stringed instruments
or with the organ, they express the joyous and sad sentiments of the soul with an
indescribable power. Moreover, in the encyclical Mediator Dei, We Ourselves gave detailed
and clear regulations concerning the musical modes that are to be admitted into the
worship of the Catholic religion.
60. "For, if they are not profane or unbecoming to the sacredness of the place and
function and do not spring from a desire to achieve extraordinary and unusual effects,
then our churches must admit them, since they can contribute in no small way to the
splendor of the sacred ceremonies, can lift the mind to higher things, and can foster true
devotion of the soul."
61. It should hardly be necessary to add the warning that, when the means and talent
available are unequal to the task, it is better to forego such attempts than to do
something which would be unworthy of divine worship and sacred gatherings.
62. As We have said before, besides those things that are intimately associated with
the Church's sacred liturgy, there are also popular religious hymns which derive their
origin from the liturgical chant itself. Most of these are written in the language of the
people. Since these are closely related to the mentality and temperament of individual
national groups, they differ considerably among themselves according to the character of
different races and localities.
63. If hymns of this sort are to bring spiritual fruit and advantage to the Christian
people, they must be in full conformity with the doctrine of the Catholic faith. They must
also express and explain that doctrine accurately. Likewise they must use plain language
and simple melody and must be free from violent and vain excess of words. Despite the fact
that they are short and easy, they should manifest a religious dignity and seriousness.
When they are fashioned in this way these sacred canticles, born as they are from the most
profound depths of the people's soul, deeply move the emotions and spirit and stir up
pious sentiments. When they are sung at religious rites by a great crowd of people singing
as with one voice, they are powerful in raising the minds of the faithful to higher
64. As we have written above, such hymns cannot be used in Solemn High Masses without
the express permission of the Holy See. Nevertheless at Masses that are not sung solemnly
these hymns can be a powerful aid in keeping the faithful from attending the Holy
Sacrifice like dumb and idle spectators. They can help to make the faithful accompany the
sacred services both mentally and vocally and to join their own piety to the prayers of
the priest. This happens when these hymns are properly adapted to the individual parts of
the Mass, as We rejoice to know is being done in many parts of the Catholic world.
65. In rites that are not completely liturgical religious hymns of this kind--when, as
We have said, they are endowed with the right qualities-- can be of great help in the
salutary work of attracting the Christian people and enlightening them, in imbuing them
with sincere piety and filling them with holy joy. They can produce these effects not only
within churches, but outside of them also, especially on the occasion of pious processions
and pilgrimages to shrines and at the time of national or international congresses. They
can be especially useful, as experience has shown, in the work of instructing boys and
girls in Catholic truth, in societies for youth and in meetings of pious associations.
66. Hence We can do no less than urge you, venerable brethren, to foster and promote
diligently popular religious singing of this kind in the dioceses entrusted to you. There
is among you no lack of experts in this field to gather hymns of this sort into one
collection, where this has not already been done, so that all of the faithful can learn
them more easily, memorize them and sing them correctly.
67. Those in charge of the religious instruction of boys and girls should not neglect
the proper use of these effective aids. Those in charge of Catholic youth should make
prudent use of them in the highly important work entrusted to them. Thus there will be
hope of happily attaining what everyone desires, namely the disappearance of worldly songs
which because of the quality of their melodies or the frequently voluptuous and lascivious
words that go with them are a danger to Christians, especially the young, and their
replacement by songs that give chaste and pure pleasure, that foster and increase faith
68. May it thus come about that the Christian people begin even on this earth to sing
that song of praise it will sing forever in heaven: "To Him who sits upon the throne,
and to the Lamb, blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever."
69. What we have written thus far applies primarily to those nations where the Catholic
religion is already firmly established. In mission lands it will not be possible to
accomplish all these things until the number of Christians has grown sufficiently, larger
church buildings have been erected, the children of Christians properly attend schools
established by the Church and, finally, until there is an adequate number of sacred
ministers. Still We urgently exhort apostolic workers who are laboring strenuously in
these extensive parts of the Lord's vineyard to pay careful attention to this matter as
one of the serious problems of their ministry.
70. Many of the peoples entrusted to the ministry of the missionaries take great
delight in music and beautify the ceremonies dedicated to the worship of idols with
religious singing. It is not prudent, then, for the heralds of Christ, the true God, to
minimize or neglect entirely this effective help in their apostolate. Hence the preachers
of the Gospel in pagan lands should sedulously and willingly promote in the course of
their apostolic ministry the love for religious song which is cherished by the men
entrusted to their care. In this way these people can have, in contrast to their own
religious music which is frequently admired even in cultivated countries, sacred Christian
hymns in which the truths of the faith, the life of Christ the Lord and the praises of the
Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints can be sung in a language and in melodies familiar to
71. Missionaries should likewise be mindful of the fact that, from the beginning, when
the Catholic Church sent preachers of the Gospel into lands not yet illumined by the light
of faith, it took care to bring into those countries, along with the sacred liturgical
rites, musical compositions, among which were the Gregorian melodies. It did this so that
the people who were to be converted might be more easily led to accept the truths of the
Christian religion by the attractiveness of these melodies.
72. So that the desired effect may be produced by what We have recommended and ordered
in this encyclical, following in the footsteps of Our predecessors, you, venerable
brethren, must carefully use all the aids offered by the lofty function entrusted to you
by Christ the Lord and committed to you by the Church. As experience teaches, these aids
are employed to great advantage in many churches throughout the Christian world.
73. First of all see to it that there is a good school of singers in the cathedral
itself and, as far as possible, in other major churches of your dioceses. This school
should serve as an example to others and influence them to carefully develop and perfect
74. Where it is impossible to have schools of singers or where there are not enough
choir boys, it is allowed that "a group of men and women or girls, located in a place
outside the sanctuary set apart for the exclusive use of this group, can sing the
liturgical texts at Solemn Mass, as long as the men are completely separated from the
women and girls and everything unbecoming is avoided. The Ordinary is bound in conscience
in this matter."
75. Great care must be taken that those who are preparing for the reception of sacred
orders in your seminaries and in missionary or religious houses of study are properly
instructed in the doctrine and use of sacred music and Gregorian chant according to the
mind of the Church by teachers who are experts in this field, who esteem the traditional
customs and teachings and who are entirely obedient to the precepts and norms of the Holy
76. If, among the students in the seminary or religious house of study, anyone shows
remarkable facility in or liking for this art, the authorities of the seminary or house of
study should not neglect to inform you about it. Then you may avail yourself of the
opportunity to cultivate these gifts further and send him either to the Pontifical
Institute of Sacred Music in Rome or to some other institution of learning in which this
subject is taught, provided that the student manifests the qualities and virtues upon
which one can base a hope that he will become an excellent priest.
77. In this matter care must also be taken that local Ordinaries and heads of religious
communities have someone whose help they can use in this important area which, weighed
down as they are by so many occupations, they cannot easily take care of themselves.
78. It would certainly be best if in diocesan Councils of Christian Art there were
someone especially expert in the fields of religious music and chant who could carefully
watch over what is being done in the diocese, inform the Ordinary about what has been done
and what is going to be done, receive the Ordinary's commands and see that they are
obeyed. If in any diocese there is one of these associations, which have been wisely
instituted to foster sacred music and have been greatly praised and commended by the
Sovereign Pontiffs, the Ordinary in his prudence may employ this association in the task
of fulfilling responsibility.
79. Pious associations of this kind, which have been founded to instruct the people in
sacred music or for advanced study in this subject, can contribute greatly by words and
example to the advance of sacred music.
80. Help and promote such associations, venerable brethren, so that they may lead an
active life, may employ the best and the most effective teachers, and so that, throughout
the entire diocese, they may diligently promote the knowledge, love and use of sacred
music and religious harmonies, with due observance of the Church's laws and due obedience
81. Moved by paternal solicitude, We have dealt with this matter at some length. We are
entirely confident that you, venerable brethren, will diligently apply all of your
pastoral solicitude to this sacred subject which contributes so much to the more worthy
and magnificent conduct of divine worship.
82. It is Our hope that whoever in the Church supervises and directs the work of sacred
music under your leadership may be influenced by Our encyclical letter to carry on this
glorious apostolate with new ardor and new effort, generously, enthusiastically and
83. Hence, We hope that this most noble art, which has been so greatly esteemed
throughout the Church's history and which today has been brought to real heights of
holiness and beauty, will be developed and continually perfected and that on its own
account it will happily work to bring the children of the Church to give due praise,
expressed in worthy melodies and sweet harmonies, to the Triune God with stronger faith,
more flourishing hope and more ardent charity.
84. May it produce even outside the walls of churches--in Christian families and
gatherings of Christians--what St. Cyprian beautifully spoke of to Donatus, "Let the
sober banquet resound with Psalms. And if your memory by good and your voice pleasant,
approach this work according to custom. You give more nourishment to those dearest to you
if we hear spiritual things and if religious sweetness delights the ears."
85. In the meantime, buoyed up by the hope of richer and more joyous fruits which We
are confident will come from this exhortation of Ours, as a testimony of Our good will and
as an omen of heavenly gifts to each one of you, venerable brethren, to the flock
entrusted to your care and to those who observe Our wishes and work to promote sacred
music, with abundant charity, We impart the Apostolic Benediction.
86. Given at St. Peter's in Rome, December 25, on the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord
Jesus Christ, in the year 1955, the 17th of Our Pontificate.