Scots composer James MacMillan has been honoured with a leading role in a ceremony in Rome on Thursday, 11 October, at which Pope Benedict XVI will launch a Year of Faith for the Catholic Church round the world.
At a Mass in St Peter’s Square, attended by several hundred bishops and cardinals from every continent, the Ayrshire-born composer will receive from the Pope a symbolic copy of the Catholic Church’s 'Message to Artists' composed 50 years ago at the end of the Second Vatican Council. In doing so MacMillan is to represent 'the
artists of the world'.
Announcing the initiative, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the head of the Vatican’s Commission for a New Evangelisation, said: “At the end of the Mass, there will be a sign to indicate that the teachings of the Council retain all their validity and deserve to be better known and studied.
“This sign,” the archbishop explained, “will mirror Pope Paul VI's consignment of Messages to the People of God at the end of the Council in 1965. Those same Messages will be consigned by Pope Benedict XVI to various categories of people: political leaders, representatives of the world of science and thought, artists, women, workers, the poor, sick and suffering, and to young people.”
James MacMillan was contacted by the Vatican about the event several weeks ago but has not been able to reveal details until now. He said: “I have been invited to receive the message on behalf of the artists of the world. I am honoured and humbled to have received this invitation. I have long been aware of Pope Paul's message to artists at the end of the 2nd Vatican Council. I have always found it moving. It shows that the Church does not discriminate. It was a message to all artists not just Catholic ones. In it he said 'if you are friends of genuine art, you are our friends.' This reminds us that the Church's historic mission is the same as Christ's - to the whole of mankind.
“Art can be a window on to the mind of God. Through this window we can encounter beauty and divine truth. Artists can be peculiarly susceptible to the breath of the Holy Spirit which can then inspire their work. As a Catholic artist I have always felt overwhelmed that my Church has recognised this truth, and continues to do so. I am proud that the Holy Father has invited me to the Mass in Rome to represent my fellow artists. I am excited that the on-going dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and creative people is continuing and that I can play a part in it."
Archbishop Philip Tartaglia who is in Rome to represent Scotland at the ceremonies and the Synod of Bishops said: "I am delighted that the Holy See has recognised the spiritual and artistic contribution of James MacMillan. It is a great honour for a Scot to represent the artists of the world. I have known James for many years and have admired his work, not least his Mass composed for the Papal Visit in 2010. I am sure Scotland's Catholics and all who recognise James's faith and musical talent will be delighted that he has been honoured in this way."
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