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Latin: the universal language of the Catholic Church

"It was the will of the Eternal Father that one universal language be used along with, in comparison with, together with the language of the land. This universal language, Latin, befit and was chosen by the Eternal Father as a universal language for the universal Church, the Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of Pope Paul VI, the successor of Peter....” – Our Lady of the Roses, April 10, 1976

A Vatican document issued on March 25, 2004 entitled, On Certain Matters To Be Observed Or To Be Avoided Regarding The Most Holy Eucharist, states that "priests are always and everywhere permitted to celebrate Mass in Latin." (#112)

Fr. William C. Van Breda, O.S.A. writes:

At a time when the Church is passing through an era of crisis and a period of doctrinal disarray, when the centers of higher learning proclaim themselves independent of the Holy See, a remark of Dom Gueranger, O.S.B., on the use of Latin, written more than a century ago, may gain again some curious significance. "The hatred of the Latin language is innate in the hearts of all the enemies of Rome; they perceive in it the universal bond of all Catholics and the arsenal of orthodoxy; against all sectarian subtleties..." (Inst. Liturg. I 402) The same thought appears in the Encyclical Mediator Dei (#60): "The use of the Latin language ... is a manifest and beautiful sign of unity as well as an effective antidote for any corruption of doctrinal truth." So it is no coincidence that the doctrinal dissenters, the moral muddlers and the loathers of Latin are lodging at the same address. (Homiletic & Pastoral Review, March 1991, pp. 64-65)

The Popes on the Latin language:

Pope Pius X (Moto Propio on the Restoration of Church Music, November 22, 1903): “The language of the Roman Church is Latin. It is therefore forbidden to sing anything whatever in the vernacular in solemn liturgical functions—much more to sing in the vernacular the variable or common parts of the Mass and Office.” 

Pope Pius XI (Officiorum Omnium, 1922): "The Church - precisely because it embraces all nations and is destined to endure until the end of time - of its very nature requires a language which is universal, immutable, and non-vernacular."  

Pope Pius XII (Mediator Dei): "The use of the Latin language affords at once an imposing sign of unity and an effective safeguard against the corruption of true doctrine."  

Pope John XXIII (encyclical Veterum Sapientia, 1962): The Pope spoke of the special value of Latin which had proved so admirable a means for the spreading of Christianity and which had proved to be a bond of unity for the Christian peoples of Europe. He continued: "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 favour 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. For these reasons the Apostolic See has always been at pains to preserve Latin, deeming it worthy of being used in the exercise of her teaching authority as the splendid vesture of her heavenly doctrine and sacred laws. She further requires her sacred ministers to use it, for by so doing they are the better able, wherever they may be, to acquaint themselves with the mind of the Holy See on any matter, and communicate the more easily with Rome and with one another. The Church - because it embraces all nations and is destined to endure to the end of time - of its very nature requires a language which is universal, immutable, and non-vernacular. Modern languages are liable to change, and no single language 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 would not be manifested to everyone with sufficient clarity and precision. There would also 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. In addition, the Latin language can be called truly catholic. It is a general passport to the proper understanding of the Christian writers of antiquity and the documents of the Church's teaching. It is also a most effective bond, binding the Church of today with that of the past and of the future in wonderful continuity. There can be no doubt as to the formative and educational value of the language and great literature of the Romans. It is a most effective training for the pliant minds of youth. It exercises, matures and perfects the principal faculties of mind and spirit. It sharpens the wits and gives keenness of judgment. It helps the young mind to grasp things accurately and develop a true sense of values. It is also a means for teaching highly intelligent thought and speech. The use of Latin has recently been queried in many quarters, and many people are asking about the mind of the Apostolic See in this matter. We have therefore decided to issue this document, so as to ensure that the ancient and uninterrupted use of Latin be maintained and, where necessary, restored. So many people, unaccountably dazzled by the marvelous progress of science, are taking it upon themselves to oust or restrict the study of Latin and other kindred subjects. Yet, the greatest impression is made on the mind by those things which correspond more closely to man's nature and dignity. And therefore the greatest zeal should be shown in the acquisition of whatever educates and ennobles the mind. Otherwise poor mortal creatures may well become like the machines they build - cold, hard, and devoid of love. Bishops and superiors-general of religious orders shall be on their guard lest anyone under their jurisdiction, eager for revolutionary changes, writes against the use of Latin in the teaching of the higher sacred studies or in the liturgy, or through prejudice makes light of the Holy See's will in this regard or interprets it falsely. Professors of the sacred sciences in universities or seminaries are required to speak Latin and to make use of textbooks written in Latin. If ignorance of Latin makes it difficult for some to obey these instructions, they shall gradually be replaced by professors who are suited to this task. Since Latin is the Church's living language, it must be furnished with new words that are apt and suitable for expressing modern things, words that will be uniform and universal in their application and constructed in conformity with the genius of the ancient Latin tongue."  

Pope Paul VI (encyclical Sacrificium Laudis, 1966): "The Latin language is assuredly worthy of being defended with great care instead of being scorned; for the Latin Church it is the most abundant source of Christian civilization and the richest treasury of piety. We must not hold in low esteem these traditions of our fathers which were our glory for centuries."  

Pope John Paul II (1980 letter on the mystery and worship of the Eucharist), praised Latin as an expression of the unity of the Church which, through its dignified character, elicited a profound sense of the Eucharistic mystery. He said it was necessary to show understanding and full respect towards those Catholics who missed the use of the old Latin liturgy, and to accommodate their desires as far as possible. He said the Roman Church has special obligations towards Latin and she must manifest them whenever the occasion presents itself. And at the start of the new millennium, Pope John Paul told an international group of pilgrims in Rome on July 28, 1999: "We strongly encourage you all that, by diligent study and effective teaching, you may pass on like a torch the understanding, love and use of this immortal language in your own countries."


"Because of the fall in Babylon, many new languages were given because of the sin of Babylon. Therefore, as a member of one country, My children, with a universal language, you carried with you your own country's translation, and were you to visit abroad, you could enter upon any foreign edifice, Church of My Son, and feel comfortable and in one with the man, the priest, the one chosen by My Son to represent Him in His House.
    "If you were, My child, to go from your United States to France, could you understand the words in French? But, My child, you would recognize the words in Latin and you would have your book with you to read in your American language, just as those in France could read in their French language, bringing upon the world a beautiful and common bond of language among all who have been given the grace to be called to the Roman Catholic Church of My Son.
    "Do not leave My Son's Church though, My children, because they have taken this language from among you. You must wait and persevere and weep with My Son for this defilement by man."
- Our Lady, April 10, 1976


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September 18, 2017