The music at Pope Benedict’s Mass in Berlin

I put together a medley from excerpts of music from Pope Benedict’s Mass in Berlin.

I am not making this up. Mind you: I wasn’t all drek. A lot of it was.

You can watch whole Mass on demand through a video player from Vatican Radio: HERE. Go to Sept 22.

A selection before Mass and the offertory and night club stuff for Communion time. I included for contrast the Ite, just to show how people can sing Latin responses and there is a “Großer Gott wir loben dich” as well. What was not included in the on demand video was the supremely horrendous music after the final hymn to help people whistle a tune on the way home. As I watched and heard the post-Mass horror (not included in my recording below), it occurred to me that there was no way that anyone, listening to that music, could have had their mind on the mystery of the Eucharist celebrated for them by the Vicar of Christ. But I had that same sense during the pre-Mass and offertory as well. You decide for yourselves.

It is about 22 minutes long. Feel free to skip forward.

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  1. Robert_H says:

    What was the jazzy number at the start? Sounded like a Broadway show-tune. And nice touch with the guitar solo at 15:30. I can only imagine the Holy Father’s expression.

    The Ite was beautiful.

    Deo gratias, I’m off to a Low Mass in an hour.

  2. APX says:

    @Fr. Z
    there was no way that anyone, listening to that music, could have had their mind on the mystery of the Eucharist celebrated for them by the Vicar of Christ.

    Nope, not really with the exception of the last one.

    Off the top of my head:
    The first ditty: Flashbacks to the high school drama production, West-Side Story
    The second ditty: High school variety show
    Ditty at 12:19: Sitting on hold with the cable company
    Ditty at 13:35: One of those power ballads you belt out with full emotion and play air guitar along to while driving in your car
    Holy God We Praise Thy Name: Benediction’s Greatest Hits concert. Sorry, but the round of applause really bothers me.

  3. Ezra says:

    Flashbacks to performing in a school musical when I was eight. I don’t remember that being a very prayerful experience either.

  4. Andreas says:

    One might expect to hear such noise in the elevators of certain ‘catholic’ publications…not at a Holy Mass. When will there be an end?

  5. frjim4321 says:

    Hmmmph, not quite sure what I think about this. I really don’t mind bringing various musical genre from time to time but these compositions seemed fairly amateurish. When I think of the wealth of sacred music that came out of Germany and contrast it to what I hear on this 22 minute clip it seems disappointing. I would have to see if it would grow on me. For some reason it kept thinking me of the Stupidville music that some of the youth groups are singing these days. Theologically and musically very, very thin. That being said, acoustically it would have to be extremely difficult to carry off organwerk for a crowd of several thousand without using an Allen or Rodgers “appliance.”

  6. pelerin says:

    I do like the ‘feel free to skip forward.’ I think I’ll skip the lot thank you.

  7. ContraMundum says:

    I’m beginning to have a greater appreciation for the distinction Eastern Catholics and the Orthodox make between a proper icon and religious art. This seems somewhat analogous to me. This music is fine religious music, much better than “Christian rock”, but it’s just not suitable for a liturgical context.

  8. mrose says:

    Why would it be so difficult for Marini, et. al., let alone the Holy Father himself, to make it clear that the liturgies he celebrates, ESPECIALLY Holy Mass, make use of dignified music, and use the Church’s own liturgical texts (like the Propers!).

    I find it hard to believe (I am being honest, not simply trying to not-so-subtly make a point) that the papal liturgy “team” can do little-to-nothing about these disgusting practices. I love the Holy Father, we are blessed in so many ways by Benedict XVI…but these sorts of things confuse me endlessly.

  9. Re: why can’t Marini just lower the boom?

    Because many people no longer know what dignified music is, and indeed have little conception of dignity, much less the sacred. It would be like punishing a baby for not understanding the organization of your bookshelves.

    Also, because Swiss Music Ninja Team Gatchapope is a little bit messy to deploy.

  10. Schiavona says:

    It was painful to watch the Pope incense the altar to a casual jazzy tune. His humility was touching.

    And it was rude from his hosts to subject him to it. I kept wondering about the ratio of cluelessness and deliberate humiliation in the whole thing. They may not share his sense of the sacred, but at the very least, they must be aware of his taste.

  11. Adventist says:

    The clapping is the worst part of this. Music can be changed; the attitude that the celebrant of Holy Mass, wherever it is celebrated, is to be applauded rather than quietly prayed for as he enters, is the true evil. My God, have You forsaken us by giving us such a wicked, lukewarm generation? What a disgusting display this is… what a vile corruption of what should be the holiest moment of contemplative silence and beauty in the life of any human being who witnesses it! Why!?

  12. And to say nothing about the torch bearing virgins deployed in great numbers. And we think that the US is a mess. Interesting to know that with the advent of all this foolishness, the numbers attending weekly Mass is waning. Can you blame them?

  13. Bro Albert says:

    A similar experience was the Mass at WYD 2005 in Cologne. Although, in this Berlin-Mass the mass-parts were pretty good. It seems that the Neues Geistliches Lied (a kind of well-payed musical ‘pressure-group’) has quite some influence in Germany. The video showed that the youth-ministry even was allowed to offer a workers-helmet to the pope, with their names written on it. That was pretty nonsensical after the gift of the Plötsensee-window. However, it is very sad to have to conclude that Catholic identity has almost vaporized in this leading European nation. I can’t wait to see the fruits of this Papal visit in time.

  14. tealady24 says:

    Martini, anyone? I’ll take mine extra dry.
    What was THAT?

  15. contrarian says:

    Ugh. Painful. I’m sure that the Pill and the Wrap will approve, too. Not a good sign.

  16. cweaver says:

    I believe Fr. Z has pointed out before that the Holy Father had this to say on applause, in The Spirit of the Liturgy: “Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment.” I’m not really sure that this music can be called an achievement, in the normal, positive sense of the word.

    What a contrast with last year’s papal visit to England, where the music was mostly great.

  17. JSArt867 says:

    That jazzy stuff at the beginning kind of reminded me of the Weather Channel.

  18. ContraMundum says:

    I’d like folks to bear in mind that these Masses during Papal visits have nothing to do with the way Mass is celebrated throughout the country on Sundays and Holy Days. Do you really think that in Ukraine, girls dance around with icons during Communion, the way they did during John Paul’s visit? Get real.

    Yes, you can find irreverent Masses in Germany. No doubt those who wish to judge German Catholicism have never been to an irreverent Mass in the US! But at least while I was their (1997-1998), it was easy to find beautiful, reverent Masses as well.

  19. ContraMundum says:

    UGH! While I was “there”, not “their”!

    At any rate, I have a fondness for German Catholicism. Coming from a Fundamentalist background, it was really in Germany that I was pulled into orbit around the Catholic Church, leading to my conversion.

  20. APX says:

    That jazzy stuff at the beginning kind of reminded me of the Weather Channel.

    No, the Weather Network’s music is far better than this.

  21. spock says:

    That is unfortunate. Sounded like some Tony Bennett type music or something. The Holy Father deserves better.

    On a positive note; our choir sung the Mass with music from Giovanni Battista Casali (Missa in G) this morning. I wish the Pope could have heard it. An excerpt of it from a different choir is on the link below.

  22. chonak says:

    Usually I disapprove of applause at Mass, but it’s probably the only effective way for the faithful en masse to tell the misguided music directors which music we consider appropriate. If only there were a polite way to boo at the bad music!

  23. anna 6 says:

    I had the same thought as Schiavona:
    “I kept wondering about the ratio of cluelessness and deliberate humiliation in the whole thing.”
    I prefer to think that they are clueless because then they can be taught…
    Let’s pray that it wasn’t deliberate.

  24. Ezra says:


    Looking at my copy of the instructions from Rome as to how to plan a papal liturgy – and with memories of a meeting with Mgr Marini – such a choice of musical offering would have received a polite but firm rejection, had I suggested something similar for Cofton Park. Not that I would have!

  25. anna 6 says:

    I wonder if the pabstbruder, Georg Ratinger will grant another post papal visit interview? He is very uinhibited when he speaks about music and can be a trifle less diplomatic than his brother. Wouldn’t I love to be a fly on the wall when he gets his next call on the papal hot phone!

    BTW,wasn’t the archbishop of Berlin, Woelki, recently appointed (to the chagrin of Berliners who freaked out because he was too conservative)? In any case, Perhaps we really can’t blame him for the liturgies since they were probably already prepared before he arrived?

  26. esiul says:

    Dear Fr. Z., I agree with all the others ahead of me, the music was pretty awful, and I’m complaining often about what we sing here in the US. Fortunately for me I was so concentrated not to miss a word of the Holy Father’s words, that I totally blocked out any negative feelings about the music.

    Your response to US Catholic’s Phoenix story has my greatest admiration. You are so right!!!
    Keep up the good work, you are loved.

  27. mpolo says:

    As I was there in the stadium, I guess I should say something. The opening song was a normal hymn, sung with very little accompaniament, both haunting and moving, which was then followed by a modern song, the worst of this was the ridiculous sax solo right as the Pope was incensing the altar.

    The offertory hymn is a pretty common one around here, sung with the “politically correct” words, which paradoxically actually improve the theology (the Eucharist was a “brotherly meal” in the original words, and is now a “paschal meal”). Which doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate, of course.

    The chanted Pater Noster was an incredible experience, as was the Ite.

    Großer Gott, wir loben dich was also quite good. They actually had a bunch of hymns in the booklet for the “Sing Out”, but they were somehow not sung, so that we had just the group “Patchwork” doing their lounge music thing.

    The one communion hymn was distracting with the jam session, and a little smile of bewilderment seemed to creep onto Pope Benedict’s lips during that. I have to admit, I didn’t notice much, because we were trying to vault rows to get up to a deacon distributing Communion — the one part of the Mass that was pretty poorly thought out. (Because of poor distribution of the ministers, many were still distribuiting after the Ite Missa Est — where we were, it wasn’t that bad, but still a challenge to get Communion.)

    Clapping was actually very much under control — there was a lot of applause during Archbishop Wölki’s greeting of the Pope, after the homily, and then as the Pope blessed the crowd after kissing the altar for the recessional. I don’t recall any breaks to clap for the music.

    The Mass parts were in Latin, but sung by a choir, and I wasn’t particularly moved by them. I was, however, sitting directly behind the choir, so they had shut off our speakers to avoid feedback, which meant that I also wasn’t really hearing them the same way others in the congregation heard them.

  28. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    mrose: Amen! The ‘reform of the reform’: two steps forward, one step back. As a priest-friend sarcastically said, “If only Joseph Ratzinger had been elected Pope.”

  29. irishgirl says:

    My eyeballs just about bugged out when I heard the opening notes of the lounge music act. I thought to myself, ‘What the?’ I turned it off to keep from screaming out loud here in the library.
    They couldn’t have anything reverent? What about an instrumental piece by Buxtehude (spelling?) or some other Catholic German composer of the past? And it HAS to be ‘modern’, aren’t there any good Catholic composers around these days in Germany? Or has the country gone to the dogs culture-wise?
    anna 6-yeah, I also would like to be a fly on the wall if Monsignor Georg Ratzinger (the ‘pabstbruder’-I love that term) gets on the papal hotline to apologize to his brother about the horrid music! And I’m glad to hear that the good Monsignor doesn’t pull any punches; he doesn’t have to be ‘diplomatic’ like the Holy Father!

  30. vivaldi says:

    All I can say is thank God for Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre!

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