Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Popes and Latin


What the post-Vatican Council II Popes said about Latin

Pope John XXIII: The Catholic Church has a dignity far surpassing that of any merely human society. For it was founded by Christ the Lord. It is altogether fitting, therefore, that the language it uses should be noble, majestic, and non-vernacular. (Veterum Sapientia, 1962)

Pope John Paul II: has recommended the use of Latin in the Roman liturgy and in seminary training. In a message to a conference being held at the Salesian University in Rome, the Holy Father emphasized that Latin remains the official language of the Catholic Church, and expressed his desire that 'the love of that language would grow ever strong among candidates for the priesthood.' The Pope's message itself was written in Latin, and read by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State. The conference to which the Pope addressed this message was commemorating the 40th anniversary of Veterum Sapientia, the apostolic constitution in which Pope John XXIII wrote of the importance of Latin as an important part of 'the patrimony of human civilization.' Pope John Paul underlined the same message, pointing out that the use of Latin 'is an indispensable condition for a proper relationship between modernity and antiquity, for dialogue among different cultures, and for reaffirming the identity of the Catholic priesthood.' (CWNews, 2002)

Pope Benedict XVI: In order to express more clearly the unity and universality of the Church, I wish to endorse the proposal made by the Synod of Bishops, in harmony with the directives of the Second Vatican Council, that, with the exception of the readings, the homily and the prayer of the faithful, it is fitting that such liturgies be celebrated in Latin. Similarly, the better-known prayers of the Church's tradition should be recited in Latin and, if possible, selections of Gregorian chant should be sung. Speaking more generally, I ask that future priests, from their time in the seminary, receive the preparation needed to understand and to celebrate Mass in Latin, and also to use Latin texts and execute Gregorian chant; nor should we forget that the faithful can be taught to recite the more common prayers in Latin, and also to sing parts of the liturgy to Gregorian chant. (Sacramentum Caritatis, 2007)

Godwin Xuereb
President, Pro Tridentina (Malta)