VATICAN CITY — Benedictine Abbot Michael Zielinski was nominated by Pope Benedict XVI Nov. 24 to lead a new office on liturgical arts at the Congregation for Divine Worship.
His appointment comes just after the Nov. 14 restructuring of the congregation, which will mean that Father Zielinski’s new division will focus on art, architecture and liturgical music. His title, capo ufficio (head of the office), makes him No. 4 in the congregation’s hierarchy.
Father Zielinski has served in Rome since 2007, as vice president of the Pontifical Commissions for the Cultural Heritage of the Church and for Sacred Archaeology. Those two commissions merged in June, at which time he left that position. He has been a consultor to the Congregation for Divine Worship since November 2010.
He was born in Lakewood, Ohio, in 1953 and joined the Congregation of Saint Mary of Mount Olivet, part of the Benedictine confederation, making his final profession in 1975.
Father Zielinski was ordained a priest in 1977 after studying at the Pontifical University of St. Anselmo in Rome. He served as prior and novice master at a Benedictine abbey in Florence, Italy, and was elected abbot of a New Mexican abbey in 2003. He served as abbot at the Abbey of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Pecos until his appointment to the two pontifical commissions.
The abbot’s role at the congregation will include ensuring that the directives from the Second Vatican Council’s document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, are carried out faithfully.
In a 2008 edition of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Father Zielinski offered some thoughts on the musical heritage of the Church. “To recover the great treasure which the Tradition of the Church gave to us, it is necessary to begin with Gregorian chant, which is capable of communicating to the people of God the sense of Catholicity and to guide it towards a correct inculturation,” he wrote.
Father Zielinski wrote in a 2010 article for the scholarly journal Antiphon that “in recent decades, much of the cultural heritage of the Church — from venerable rites to the many goods employed in their service — has been endangered by an ideology of novelty that has misunderstood if not rejected the profound respect for the tradition that genuine creativity in continuity with tradition had always understood.”
As second in command at the Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, he stated that “impoverishment” of sacramentals endangers “the very encounter with the incarnate Lord.”
Speaking of the importance of the Roman rite of the Mass as it was celebrated prior to 1962, Father Zielinski said, “I, too, have found that my vocation as a monk and as a priest have been renewed through a greater appreciation of the riches of liturgical tradition.”
Concluded Father Zielinski, “We must do all that we can — each of us according to our gifts — to move forward ... building upon the foundations of our forebears, that, by the fruits of our Christian lives, all that is true, beautiful and good in the cultural heritage of the Church will shine forth for the people of our day and for those of future generations, for our salvation and for the salvation of the whole world.”