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And now the news... in Latin

Blog | By Harry Mount | Jun 08, 2019


Gaudete! Rejoice! The Vatican has started broadcasting the news in Latin and - mirabile dictu! - it's brilliant.

'Hebdomada Papae, notitiae vaticanae latine redditae' - or 'The Pope’s Week - Vatican News in Latin' - is only five minutes long. But it's very well done. Massimiliano Menichetti, the announcer, speaks very clearly and fluently. To hear Latin spoken properly is very like hearing Italian but in its sublime, ancient original form.

How good that the Pope (picture credit: Zebra48bo), often seen to be a progressive trendy, is keen on the greatest language of all - and the official Vatican language.

The Old Testament may have been written in Hebrew, the New in Greek, but it was in Latin that the medieval priest principally read and in Latin that he spoke in church.

It is in the translation from the Latin, too, that worshippers were used to hearing the liturgy. That was before the Book of Common Prayer was edged out by the 1980 Alternative Service Book and the 2000 Common Worship series.

Confusingly, the Latin Church used a Greek liturgy for several hundred years before adopting Latin, but it was the Latin version that stuck until Vatican II in 1962-5.

Vatican II pushed the Catholic liturgy away from direct use of Latin and from translations that remained faithful to the original Latin. How gratifying then that John Paul II reversed the trend when he signed off the 2001 directive, known as Liturgiam Authenticam, demanding translations that were closer to Latin.

In America, Australia, Scotland, England and Wales, bishops voted to accept the Vatican-backed translations.

So, in America for example, the prayer before communion, which had gone “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you,” now goes “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.” That’s much closer to the original Latin – “Domine, non sum dignus, ut intres sub tectum meum.”

Likewise, in the Nicene Creed, “born of the Virgin Mary” will revert to “incarnate of the Virgin Mary” (“incarnatus…ex Maria Virgine”).

And, in the exchange between priest and congregation:

Priest: “The Lord be with you.”

Congregation: “And also with you.”

has become:

Priest: “The Lord be with you.”

Congregation: “And with your spirit..”

Priest: “Dominus Vobiscum.”

Congregation: “Et cum spiritu tuo.”

The only way forwards is backwards! Learn Latin, the ultimate ancient - and modern - language.