Prelate Says Pius XII a Music and Sports Fan

Points to Elements of Culture Promoted by Pontiff

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ROME, NOV. 10, 2008 ( Pope Pius XII was a model of Catholic culture and two elements that he promoted were music and sports, says a Vatican official.

Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, affirmed this in a talk on music and sports in the magisterium of Pius XII, given at the Thursday-Saturday conference on «The Heritage of the Magisterium of Pius XII.» The conference was organized by the Pontifical Gregorian and Lateran Universities and concluded with an audience with Benedict XVI.

Part of Archbishop Ravasi’s address was published Thursday in L’Osservatore Romano. He highlighted the broad vision that Pope Eugenio Pacelli had of culture, which he did not limit to liberal arts. The prelate said he wanted to present a Pacellian reading of two distinct areas equally valued by that Pontiff: music and sport.


The prelate recalled the passion Pius XII had for sacred music: «It is said his last hours were accompanied by the music of Sibelius»

He also recalled the Pope’s 1955 encyclical «Musicae Sacrae,» in which he said that it is not the task of the magisterium to give technical rules on music, but that it is necessary to defend it from «everything that can lessen its dignity.»

On the other hand, the archbishop noted the importance the Holy Father gave in the encyclical to popular music, which «brings joy to the family, festively accompanying processions, pilgrimages, and religious events and conferences.»

Pius XII also emphasized that cultural or ethnic songs from mission lands can «serve as a model for the development of popular Christian music.»


The pontifical council president also referred to the message Pius XII gave to athletes in 1945, in which he indicated that the Church should «care for the body and the culture of physical [exercise].»

In this message, the Pope affirmed that the human body is not just «material flesh in which strength and beauty are born and flourish, but which soon shrivels and dies like the flowers of the field that become ash and mud.» Instead, the Holy Father said that the body is destined to «flourish here so as to become immortal in the glory of heaven.»

The prelate pointed to the Pontiff’s insistence on rigorous discipline and a balanced formation and education of the whole person, which has a direct link with morality.

Pius XII encouraged athletes to aim for more than just a trophy or a «superhuman air,» but rather to «transform this activity into a truly symbolic act that is able to bring together all of the capacities of the human person, creating harmony and beauty.»

Archbishop Ravasi contended that the literary quality of the writings of the Pope «confirm his cultural background, intimately linked to the historical framework, to its urgencies and needs. Thus is configured a clear-cut and characteristic model of Catholic culture, marked by an identity anchored in the Western Christian tradition.»

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