By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the Director of the prestigious Sistine Chapel Choir on reaching the end of his term, after leading the papal choir for more than 8 years.
In a brief note on Wednesday, the Holy See Press Office said that Pope Francis has accepted Italian Salesian Monsignor Massimo Palombella’s request to conclude his assignment. The Holy Father took the decision in consultation with the Congregation of the Salesians of Don Bosco and the Office of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.
The Vatican said the 51-year old priest is now available for a new ministry that will be entrusted to him by his Salesian Congregation.
Pope Benedict XVI had appointed the Salesian priest to the post on 16 October 2010 and Pope Francis reconfirmed him in 2015.
Sistine Chapel Choir
With its history stretching back to medieval times, the Papal Sistine Chapel Choir is the oldest choir still active in the world today. It is said to have begun its roots under the pontificate of Sylvester I in the 4th century, with the Latin name “schola cantorum”, meaning singers’ guild, a name that stuck to it through many centuries.
The most important development in the history of the choir came during the Renaissance period. It took a definitive form under Pope Sixtus IV in the latter part of the 15th century with the building of the Sistine Chapel. What was originally called the “schola cantorum” now came to be known as the “Capella Sistina” or Sistine Choir and had a fixed number of singers.
When Pope Julius II later had Michelangelo adorn the interiors of the Sistine Chapel with his frescoes, the Sistine Choir found the apt environment to perform.
Pope Pius VII revived the tradition of appointing a Perpetual or permanent Maestro of the choir, with Giuseppe Baini being the first. In 1898, Pope Leo XIII appointed Italian conductor and composer, Monsignor Lorenzo Perosi, as director of the papal choir. Later, under Pope Pius X sacred music received a definitive form.
Msgr. Palombella, who has stepped down, is 4th in line after Perosi.
Under the liturgical office
Today, the Sistine Chapel Choir plays an active part during the papal celebrations in St Peter’s Basilica, and in the Sistine Chapel itself.
Pope Francis in January brought the Choir under the administration of the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, headed by Msgr. Guido Marini, the Master of the Pontifical Liturgical Celebration.
Also on Wednesday, in a separate statement, the ad interim Director of the Holy See Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti, said that the responsibility of the Sistine Chapel Choir has been temporarily assigned by Msgr. Marini to Mons. Marcos Pavan, the Master of Pueri Cantores, or boy choristers, that operates under the Sistine Chapel Choir.