To the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments
Cremona, January 5, 2018
Very Reverend Eminence,
The installation of a “digital organ” in St. Peter’s Basilica inside the Vatican, the highest symbol of Christianity, has aroused disbelief among musicians, builders of musical instruments, music lovers, art historians, and also among Italian and European organists and organbuilders.
This organ substitute, which imitates the “console” of a real organ in its features, awkwardly tries to imitate the sonority of the real instrument, without however succeeding in any way. Mainly for this reason, its presence is inadequate to the dignity of Saint Peter’s, and in general of the Church which for centuries has promoted the finest artistic production in terms of painting, sculpture, architecture and music, educating the aesthetic sense of all, believers or non-believers.
The presence of the electronic instrument in the Papal Basilica appears to us as a sign of the cultural decadence of our time, since it represents fiction rather than truth.
There are several pronouncements of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church about the importance of art and beauty as useful instruments to celebrate God. We would like to recall, for example, what His Holiness Paul VI said fifty years ago, during his homily at the “Mass of the artists” celebrated on May 7, 1964 in the Sistine Chapel: he referred to the church’s action of having used “surrogates, oleography, the work of art of few merits and little expense”, thus renouncing, for contingent reasons, “to accomplish great things, beautiful things, new things, things worthy of being admired “.
It is regrettable to note that today, around half a century after this inspirational homily, once again a substitute is used to “imitate” one of the arts that most generates deep emotions and elevates the soul to God: music.
In spite of the reasons that led to the placement and use of a digital organ inside the Papal Basilica, and of the complex and special liturgical needs of St. Peter’s, it is very hard for us to believe that a solution which does not involve the even partial exclusion of the real pipe organ in favor of the digital one cannot be found.
As pipe organbuilders and restorers we have the opportunity to meet many Christian communities in every part of the world, who make important efforts to provide their churches with real pipe organs. At the same time we are saddened to witness that the choice made in the Papal Basilica seems to minimize the great value of such efforts.
For this reason, the Italian Association of Organ builders (A.I.O.) calls the whole cultural world to express its regret for the presence of the surrogate of an authentic musical instrument within the most important home of Catholicism, and to communicate it to those responsible for the liturgical celebrations not only in Saint Peter’s Basilica but in all Catholic Churches.
At the same time, the promoters of this plea make themselves available to identify an effective method for defining possible alternate solutions so that, in accordance with the Sacred Music Concilium Constitution statement about sacred music (number 120), mostly and above all in the papal Archbasilica of Saint Peter’s “In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man’s mind to God and to higher things”.
Feeling confident that His Eminence will give due consideration to our appeal, we present deferential greetings.