The latest recipient of the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal, "For the Church and for the Pope," is exemplary church musician Dr. Peter Latona, Music Director at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
The award is the highest papal honor available to the laity, and is given exceedingly rarely. Dr. Latona served extensively during the visits of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis during their visits to the United States. With this medal, Pope Francis recognizes these contributions to the life of the Church.
What makes this honor particularly well-deserved, in my opinion, is not only Dr. Latona's work both in front of the camera and behind the scenes in these high-profile events, but the careful attention to excellence that he brings to every Mass. Music at the National Shrine is a daily job, with 4 sung Masses every day of the year. When Dr. Latona plays a daily Mass, the music is exquisite, particularly during the time of Communion meditation. It might be easy to "fill" music at these less visible events, instead of really playing, but that is not his way. He really plays, composes, carefully curates, and the results are a wonderful example for Catholic cathedrals and parishes to follow.
Congratulations! Ad multos annos!