Pope John XXIII on Latin

In the light of Summorum Pontificum and the return of the traditional Latin Mass, now might be a good time for Catholics to get re-acquainted with what the Church teaches about the Latin language. Here’s what Blessed John XXIII – the Pope who convened the Second Vatican Council -wrote in his great Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia:

“Of its very nature Latin is most suitable for promoting every form of culture among peoples. It gives rise to no jealousies. It does not favor any one nation, but presents itself with equal impartiality to all and is equally acceptable to all.

Nor must we overlook the characteristic nobility of Latin’s formal structure. Its ‘concise, varied and harmonious style, full of majesty and dignity’ makes for singular clarity and impressiveness of expression …

Furthermore, the Church’s language must be not only universal but also immutable. Modern languages are liable to change, and no single one of them is superior to the others in authority. Thus if the truths of the Catholic Church were entrusted to an unspecified number of them, the meaning of these truths, varied as they are, would not be manifested to everyone with sufficient clarity and precision. There would, moreover, be no language which could serve as a common and constant norm by which to gauge the exact meaning of other renderings.

But Latin is indeed such a language. It is set and unchanging. It has long since ceased to be affected by those alterations in the meaning of words which are the normal result of daily, popular use …

Finally, the Catholic Church has a dignity far surpassing that of every 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.”

3 thoughts on “Pope John XXIII on Latin

  1. Truer words could never have been spoken!

    In light of the Supreeme Pontiff’s, our Holy Father’s Moto Proprio ” Summorum Pontificum” i think it a neceecity for all clergy to take seriously their priestly duties in celebrating the sacred liturgy in its full essence, not some dreamt up version they compile as they go along. I pray most sincerly that, with the guidence of the Holy Ghost, we as catholics may see again the long lost grandure, revereance and awe that comes from a properly celebrated liturgy free from all modernist and protestant aspects.

    long live the Holy Father!

    In cordibus jesu et maria…

    a unworthy servant of God


  2. +JMJ+

    Didn’t G.K. Chesterton say that a language must die in order to become immortal? Among all the languages of the world, only Latin reflects the Christian ideal of the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies, that it may produce fruit.


  3. “Among all the languages of the world, only Latin reflects the Christian ideal of the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies, that it may produce fruit.”

    And among all my blog readers, only Marissa would come up with such an insightful thought!


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