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Vatican: Latin is not dead
Latin is a traditional language of the Church, liturgical in particular, it is also more and more a living language in the Vatican. Since the month of June, Vatican Radio offers a weekly program all in Latin; a choice that may seem surprising on the airwaves. This new show is not an access of nostalgia. It would rather be a desire to diversify on the part of the Vatican media.
What is this program?
Since June 8, every Saturday, at 12:32 exactly, the Italian-language channel of Vatican Radio gives way to " Hebdomada Papae, Latin notitiae vaticanae redditae " literally "The week of the Pope, Vatican newspaper in Latin language" . For five minutes, Latinist journalists present a diary reviewing the main activities of the sovereign pontiff in the language of Seneca. " This is a real radio newspaper, with reports and briefs. We have envisioned it, not with a nostalgic look at the past, but as a challenge for the future, "explains Andrea Tornielli, the Vatican's editorial director of media.
The French-language channel Radio Vatican also broadcasts this newspaper at 4:00 pm every Saturday and offers it as a podcast, accompanied, for those who would like to go further, with an article repeating the translated transcript of the texts. The subjects are very varied, it is not a question of treating the hearings of the Pope. In the last bulletin in Latin, for example, there was a text that Francis wrote in the preface to a book on the exploitation of prostitutes.
How was born the idea of remaking Latin as a living language in the Vatican and what is its purpose?
This rather counter-current idea of mainstream media is primarily related to the diversification of the Vatican media, which already speak about forty languages. If it is necessary to admit that few people know Latin well today, for the media leaders of the Vatican it seems that there is a niche to reach more demanding listeners. Andrea Tornielli emphasizes that it is about reviving the official language of the Catholic Church also through newsletters.
This program was not created from scratch: papal radio journalists were helped by the Latin Literature Office at the Secretariat of State, where the various official documents of the Pope are translated into Latin. and the Holy See. Behind this program exists an educational dimension. The head of this office of Latin letters, the Polish Mgr Waldemar Turek explains that these newspapers in the language of Cicero can allow young people to learn but also to the oldest, who learned Latin in school, to be able to familiarize with social networks.
Latin, let us remember, remains a daily language in the smallest state of the world.
Vatican Radio already broadcasts a daily mass in Latin in the morning. The sound jingle of the Pope's radio begins with the expression " Laudatur, Iesus Cristus ", " Praise be Jesus Christ ". We are sure at least not to be wrong station! More broadly, Latin is traditionally still an official language in the Vatican and Rome. He is still taught in many seminaries and of course finds himself in some liturgies even if Pope Francis favors the Italian. In this, he is much less keen on Latin than his predecessor Benedict XVI.
The encyclicals of the popes are titled in Latin language like the famous Laudato Si of Pope Francis published in 2015 where it is question of ecology. In the Vatican, the Latin vocabulary is still firmly anchored in manners and the lexical field. Thus, one still speaks of Motu proprio when one evokes a decree of the pope, or of blessing Urbi et orbi to the city and to the world , to Christmas and Easter. Latin is still a legal and administrative language, but the Holy See, as we see, wants to keep this language alive. This Latin dictionary, published annually by the Vatican, reflects contemporary words such as pizza, which translates as placenta compressa or rugby by ludus follis ovāti, and then the pope's Twitter account @Pontifex, which among the eight languages is also in Latin with almost a million subscribers.