Pope Francis in Habemus Papam

SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil - The Philippine Star

In an unprecedented move that challenged many years of tradition, the Vatican has entered into a five-year contract with a record company, Universal Classics Italy. The agreement gives the label the privilege of releasing live recordings of events connected to the Vatican and including those involving present and past Pontiffs. Habemus Papam is the first album and it captures on record what is certainly a most important occasion. This was the election of Pope Francis in 2013.

I have always found the unique combination of pageantry and solemnity in the rituals of the Catholic Church fascinating and the election of a new Pontiff is one of the most intriguing events. The process never fails to hold the world spellbound from the moment when the announcement of the election comes to the arrival of the red-robed cardinals in Rome. Everybody holds their breath when the Princes of the Church retire to the Sistine Chapel where they will choose the new Pope from among themselves. And then the smoke from the chimney comes, white if they have elected a pope, black if not.

One day perhaps, all that transpires within the Conclave will not be secret anymore and will also be available on video. Then we can really see everything. But for now, let us be thankful we can listen to portions of it on CD. Get the imagination working and I am sure that you, too, will find this a historic, extraordinary, goosey experience.

A double album, Habemus Papam covers what happens before the Conclave, after the election. These are the Mass for the election of the Roman Pontiff at St. Peter’s Basilica; the entry of the Cardinal-Electors into the Sistine Chapel for the Conclave; the Mass with the Cardinal Electors; and Pope Francis’ first audience from the balcony of Saint Peter’s; and the Mass for the inauguration of the Petrine Ministry on St. Peter’s Square a few days later.

Particularly beautiful is the old music that accompanies these rites performed by the heavenly voices of the Sistine Chapel Choir. Included are Gregorian chant compositions like a Pater Noster, Regina Coeli and a Litany of the Saints. Also Gregorian are the Credo III, Gloria, Ioseph Fili David and Doxology composed by Massimo Palombella, who is also the director of the choir; and works by Lorenzo Perosi, Luigi Malfino, Francesco Guerrero and the Fugue in C Major by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Also featured here in glorious beauty are two treasures of olden times from the Vatican. These are the offertory prayer Sicut in holocaustis that was composed for the election of the Pontiff and has seen in use many times in the past, and the motet Tu es pastor ovium that was written for the enthronement of Pope Sixtus V in 1585. Both works belong to the liturgical repertoire of Palestrina and date back to the 16th century. 

Still on music for the Papal visit but from the local side. Ooberfuse, an electronica band that hails from Woolwich, London, has come up with a song titled Mercy, that will be part of the soundtrack of the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis. This is not Ooberfuse’s first encounter with the Pope. It performed the official World Youth Day Theme Song before an audience of two million people during the Pope’s visit to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2013.

Mercy though is very special for the group. This is because Ooberfuse’s front man, Cherrie Anderson, who composed the song, comes from Tacloban, Leyte. Mercy is a message of hope that she wishes to impart to the survivors and to the families left behind by those who perished during Typhoon Yolanda. It was written with memories of agonizing hours wondering about her family and her helplessness over the devastation that the typhoon wrought in the province.

Says Cherrie: “Twelve months later, though the world’s media have moved on to other things, the lives of ordinary Filipinos still bear the scars and emotional wounds of the typhoon. It is a measure of Pope Francis’ deep humanity and real concern for the poorest of the poor that he has chosen to offer direct consolation by visiting the thousands of families devastated by the worst typhoon to hit the Philippines.”

One of the highlights in Pope Francis’ Philippine itinerary on Jan. 15 to 19 is a visit to the Archdiocese of Palo in Leyte. He will offer Mass near Tacloban Airport in the morning of Jan. 17. This will be followed by lunch with the poor and the survivors of Yolanda at the residence of the Archbishop of Palo. Among the songs they will be listening to will be Mercy by Ooberfuse.











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