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Report: Pope’s Latinist pronounces death of a language

January 27, 2007

From the Telegraph:

For years it was derided by unwilling schoolboys for being “as dead as dead could be”. Now, despite the Vatican’s best efforts, the Pope’s top adviser on Latin has reluctantly joined them by saying the language of St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas is almost extinct.

“It is dying in the Church. I’m not optimistic about Latin. The young priests and bishops are not studying it,” said Fr Reginald Foster, 68, a Carmelite friar who was appointed the Papal Latinist 38 years ago by Pope Paul VI.

He said priests were no longer compelled to study Latin at seminaries, and now found it impossible to read vital theological tracts.

“You cannot understand St Augustine in English. He thought in Latin. It is like listening to Mozart through a jukebox,” he told The Sunday Telegraph. “We still speak Latin in the elevators and around the house in my monastery at San Pancrazio, just like 45 years ago. But nowadays the students don’t get it, and I don’t blame them – it’s not their fault.”

(…)

He said reports that Pope Benedict will reintroduce the Tridentine Mass, which dates from 1570 and is largely conducted in Latin, were wrong – not least because of the Pope’s desire to avoid more controversies. A speech last year offended Muslims and more recently he gave initial support to a Polish archbishop who was eventually forced to resign, after admitting that he had collaborated with the communist-era secret police.

“He is not going to do it,” Fr Foster said. “He had trouble with Regensberg, and then trouble in Warsaw, and if he does this, all hell will break loose.” In any case, he added: “It is a useless mass and the whole mentality is stupid. The idea of it is that things were better in the old days. It makes the Vatican look medieval.”

Full report here.

See also:
CWNews: Curia resists papal policies, Italian magazine says

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From → Reports

One Comment
  1. I think the death of Latin has been prematurely announced. There is so much good literature to read in Latin, that alone will keep it alive. The Latinum podcast, which offers a free online course in conversational Latin, gets 1 000 file downloads each day – not bad for a dead language.

    http://latinum.mypodcast.com

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