On what has been called his “private” day, Pope Benedict XVI remained in the town of Regensburg to take part in a brief ceremony to bless the refurbished organ of the historic Alte Kapelle. Earlier in the day, the 79 year old Pope had celebrated a private Mass at the city’s Seminary of St. Wolfgang.
Alte Kapelle, which literally means “Old Chapel,” is also known as The Collegiate Basilica Church of Our Lady and is home to a massive organ now known as the Pope Benedict Organ. The church, built around the year 1000, occupies the entire southern end of the city's old wheat market square and was originally the chapel of the ducal palace.
Arriving at the Minor Basilica, Pope Benedict was greeted by the throngs of admirers and applause which have followed him throughout his five days in Germany. Seated in the magnificent sanctuary of Alte Kapelle, the Holy Father was officially welcomed with words of appreciation and praise. The Pope was told that this organ was deemed a gift from heaven and that from this day forth it shall bear his name.
Benedict, a piano player himself, has been vocal about his deep appreciation for music, particularly sacred liturgical music. After a brief description of the process of restoration, which took eight years and almost one million dollars to complete, the Holy Father arose and spoke to the importance of music in the liturgies of the Church emphasizing the “king of musical instruments,” the organ.
"Music and song are more than an embellishment of worship," said the Pope, "they are themselves part of the liturgical action."
The organ, "transcending the merely human sphere, as all music of quality does, evokes the divine. ... It is capable of echoing and expressing all the experiences of human life. The manifold possibilities of the organ in some way remind us of the immensity and the magnificence of God."
Pope Benedict continued, offering an analogy between the organ and the Church itself explaining, “Just as in an organ an expert hand must constantly bring disharmony back to consonance, so we in the Church, in the variety of our gifts and charisms, always need to find anew, through our communion in faith, harmony in the praise of God and in fraternal love.”
“The more we allow ourselves, through the liturgy, to be transformed in Christ, the more we will be capable of transforming the world, radiating Christ's goodness, His mercy and His love for others.”
Concluding his speech, the Holy Father proclaimed with a hopeful sentiment, “May all those who enter this splendid Basilica, experiencing the magnificence of its architecture and its liturgy, enriched by solemn song and the harmony of this new organ, be brought to the joy of faith.”
Following his reflection the Holy Father formally blessed the organ. Moments after the Pope Benedict Organ was sprinkled with holy water, music burst forth from the many precisely crafted pipes above the church’s entrance.
Following the ceremony, Pope Benedict walked to the house of his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, where he had lunch. The Pope will continue his “private” day with his brother and some close friends, visiting the house he lived in as a professor and praying at the tomb of his mother and father.
Speaking of the tremendous value of the organ as a liturgical instrument, the Pope reminded a group of his native Bavarians today that music and song are “themselves part of the liturgical action,” which makes us more capable, “of transforming the world.”