Earlier this week the Vatican announced it modified its official website to include documentation of releases in Latin in addition to other languages. It appears there is a resurgence of use for Latin in the current administration of the Catholic Church. While, I have written on the subject multiple times before this, Latin really has never left the administrative center of the Church’s hierarchy. Official papal documents are written in Latin, appointments of Bishops and Cardinals are officially announced in Latin and the universal language of the Roman Church is Latin. This author really does not understand the preoccupation with the resurgence of Latin usage, or rather the public usage of Latin in the Church.

While the post-Vatican II age in the United States usually defined individuals and groups that preferred the use of Latin as Traditionalists, quietly behind the scenes the language of the Roman Empire was the mainstay of the administrative activities of the Holy See. The decision to restore the Liturgy of Blessed John XXIII is perhaps the most noticeable announcement regarding the sacramental use of Latin in the past 40 years; however, its use as the universally recognized administrative language of Catholicism has been unchanged.

All of the documents of the Second Vatican Council were officially proclaimed in Latin. This seems quite a contradiction, considering Vatican II is the catalyst of usage of vernacular languages in the Liturgy. However, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council never quite intended that the Latin language be entirely displaced as the universally favored tongue of liturgy and Church correspondence. The misnomer is the inclusion of local languages was misconstrued as an absolute proclamation and prerequisite for the proper completion of the Second Vatican Council. The reality is simply that the various conferences of bishops throughout the world responded to the inclusion of the local vernacular as extremists. As a result, Latin was out and the local language was in.

The development of a Latin section on the Vatican’s website is indicative of how truly unifying the Latin language is for the Catholic Church. Perhaps in establishing the Latin section of the website, faithful Catholics and religious observers’ worldwide can reference the official Latin text while comparing it to the local vernacular texts. This really enables the Church to communicate most effectively with everyone in the world, while maintaining a consistent and pure version of the Church’s documents in their Latin form. If indeed, there are then any issues or questions, the Latin text will provide the definitive source for modern language translators and scholars.

Of course, revival of the use of Latin means hopefully a resurgence of Latin educational courses in our Catholic educational facilities worldwide. Such courses would be especially beneficial in order to better understand and celebrate the Sacraments in Latin and (in our case) English as a living appreciation of the spiritual and historical significance Latin hold in our Roman Church. Opponents of the restoration of the use of Latin sometimes maintain that its use will further polarize groups in the Church. Quite correctly, the use of Latin in harmony with the local vernacular languages will fulfill the hopes of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council that the faithful be able to participate in the Holy Eucharist in both Latin and the local language in order to exemplify the unity of the universal Church. Additionally, an appreciation of Latin will permit the reintroduction of Gregorian Chant and other forms of the Church’s ancient liturgy, not as a vehicle for liturgical regression, but rather a living and viable means of understanding the collective development of the Catholic liturgy.

Pope Benedict XVI clearly states that Vatican II should not be seen as a moment of “rupture” in the historical development of the Catholic liturgy. He maintains the Novus Ordo of Pope Paul VI should be viewed as the spiritual bridge that links both forms of celebration together into an ordinary and extraordinary form of celebrating the same Eucharist.

While the Vatican’s official website now contains a Latin language section, such a development is clearly an appreciation of our Catholic liturgical and social traditions that are rooted in effective global communications. Latin should be viewed as a familiar linguistic friend and an unambiguous tool for Catholic catechesis and evangelization. In a similar manner, Catholics worldwide should appreciate the deep roots of the use of Latin in our Church and celebrate our linguistic and social heritages as an asset of 21st century unity and Catholic identity. While the Latin section of the Vatican’s website might not have many readers initially, perhaps the site will spark a new spirit of educational and linguistic curiosity that extends to every aspect of our living and spiritually growing Church. Welcome back to the Latin language, Catholics of all ages look forward to learning more about our historical and linguistic roots in Latin.

Hugh McNichol is a Catholic author and journalist that writes on Catholic topics and issues. Hugh studied both philosophy and theology at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. He writes daily at: http://verbumcarofactumest.blogspot.com & http://catholicsacredarts.com

Nothing Left Unsaid!” is his daily column @ http://catholicnewsagency.com

Comments are always welcome @ hugh.mcnichol@trinettc.com

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