Might there be some cause for hope that Church music can recover from 40 years of banality on parade?

Damian Thompson sees glimmers of hope thanks to the leadership of Pope Benedict. It is not that Marty You-know-who will be thrown to the curb anytime soon but rather signs of a burgeoning movement of thought led by the Pope. Three recent actions, and inaction for that matter, are the signals seen by Thompson:

1. Pope Benedict XVI boycotted a performance of “Christian pop music” in Loreto last week. The organisers of his pilgrimage had planned to subject him to it, just as they made John Paul II listen to Bob Dylan a decade ago. But Benedict stayed secluded in prayer at the shrine, missing all the groovy worship.

2. The Pope celebrated Mass in Vienna last Sunday to the accompaniment of a complete performance of Haydn’s Mariazeller Mass. John Paul (who was uninterested in music) presided at only one full liturgical performance of a polyphonic or classical Mass setting during his entire pontificate. Benedict intends to make a habit of it. That’s great news. Byrd, Palestrina, Haydn, Mozart, Bruckner – welcome back. You can find the details here, courtesy of Sandro Magister.

3. At long last, John Paul II’s master of ceremonies, Archbishop Piero Marini, is retiring. Hallelujah! In addition to encouraging the performance of elevator music at papal ceremonies, Marini is the man responsible for decking out the pontiff in draylon tents instead of fiddleback chasubles.

Don’t expect the faux folk to give up their exclusive claim to relevance any time soon, but perhaps some inroads can be made and a little sanity restored. Now that the Mass of the ages has been restored to its rightful place, perhaps our musical heritage is next?