Changes at the Head of the Sistine Chapel Choir

January 31, 2019

As of January 19, 2019, the sovereign pontiff’s Office for Liturgical Celebrations is now in charge of the Sistine Chapel Choir, whose economic administration has been entrusted to Archbishop Guido Pozzo, former secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei that was dissolved by Pope Francis on January 17.

After being overseen for decades by the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household, the Sistine Choir is now under the responsibility of Monsignor Guido Marini.

This reorganization comes after the open investigation in September 2018 of the actions of the Choir’s administrative and technical directors, Michelangelo Nardella and Massimo Palombella. When questioned by Vatican Insider, the temporary director of the Vatican press service, Alessandro Gisotti, confirmed on January 19, 2019 that there is indeed “a procedure underway concerning certain economic and administrative aspects of the choir.”

As for Monsignor Palombella, “he will continue to direct the choir for the time being, answering directly to Monsignor Marini, who now directs all the activities of the pontifical chapel, including the artistic activities,” explained Alessandro Gisotti, adding that “the responsibility for the economic administration of the chapel has now been entrusted to Archbishop Pozzo, also under the direction of Monsignor Marini.”

The document signed by the pope in the form of a Motu Proprio on January 17, 2019 stipulates that the task of the Master of Ceremonies will be to draw up statutes for the Choir and guide all its liturgical, pastoral, spiritual, artistic and educational activities, recalling that the primary goal of sacred music is “the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful.”

A World-Famous Choir

Since 1471, this choir has been considered as a “major center of artistic and liturgical expression at the service of the solemn celebrations of the popes.” At the beginning of its history, the Choir performed in the chapel decorated by Michelangelo—hence its name—then in the Vatican basilica and in all the other places the Roman pontiffs requested. Over time, it became an independent choir, even giving concerts throughout the world, to the detriment of its original vocation. Thus it was that in May 2018, the Choir was highly criticized for participating in a very controversial exhibition organized by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi. 

The tasteless photos published in the media of the little singers next to movie and fashion stars provoked the wrath of Archbishop Georg Gänswein, prefect of the Pontifical Household, and of the secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, both of whom complained to the pope about the Choir’s poor management and clear lack of dignity.