The Department of Classics & Early Christian Literature of Ave Maria University hopes that this English language translation of the motu proprio Latina Lingua will promote an acquaintance with Benedict XVI’s aims in establishing a Pontifical Academy of the Latin language. Professor Michael Pakaluk of Ave Maria University’s Department of Philosophy offers his insights on the significance of the document here.
We warmly welcome this initiative and offer our thanks to the Holy Father for it!
given motu proprio
On the founding of a Pontifical Academy of the Latin language
1. The Latin language has continuously received the great esteem of the Catholic Church and the Roman Pontiffs, inasmuch as they consider it their own language, and they have assiduously taken pains to make this language widely known, because it was capable of transmitting the message of the Gospel to the entire world, as our predecessor, Blessed John XXIII justly and rightly decreed in the Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia.
Of course the Church from the time of Pentecost has spoken and prayed in all the languages of mankind. Nevertheless the Christian communities of the first centuries for the most part used the Greek and Latin languages, since in those places in which they dwelt these were the universal means of communication, and in this way the newness of the Word of Christ encountered the heritage of Roman and Hellenistic culture.
After the Roman Empire in the west ceased to exist, the Roman Church not only continued to use the Latin language but also in a certain way was the custodian and patronness of this language, in Theology and the Liturgy, as well as in the realm of education and the transmission of knowledge.
2. In our day as well a knowledge of the Latin language and culture is vital for looking into the springs from which very many branches of learning besides draw, such as Theology, liturgical studies, Patristics, and Canon Law, as the Second Vatican Council teaches (see the decree on the education of priests, Optatam Totius, 13).
Furthermore, to manifest the universal nature of the Church, the liturgical texts of the Roman Rite have their paradigmatic form in the Latin language, as do the principal documents of the Magisterium and the solemn, official acts of the Roman Pontiffs.
3. Nevertheless in today’s culture, in which humanistic studies have diminished, there is danger that the knowledge of Latin will be superficial, something which is noticed in the Theology and Philosophy curricula even of future priests. But on the other hand, in our world in which science and technology hold pride of place, a renewed interest in the Latin language and culture may be observed, and not only on those continents which have their cultural roots in the Greek and Latin patrimony. This is particularly remarkable because not only does this fresh interest involve the realm of universities and education, but it extends even to young people and to students from the most diverse nations and traditions.
4. For this reason it seems necessary to support efforts to learn the Latin language more deeply and to use it in a fitting fashion, whether in ecclesiastical affairs or in the broader field of culture. It is perfectly reasonable, for the success and propagation of these efforts, to employ new methods of teaching Latin that correspond to new conditions and to advance likewise the links among academic institutions and among students of the language, so that the rich and diverse patrimony of Latin may be promoted.
To attain this plan, we, following in the footsteps of our predecessors, establish a Pontifical Academy of Latin by means of this Apostolic Letter issued today motu proprio. This Academy will report to the Pontifical Council on Culture. A president will direct this Academy, assisted by a secretary and those nominated by us, while a council of academics will provide these aforementioned with their aid.
The Latinitas Foundation, the body established by Pope Paul VI with the papal letter Romani Sermonis on June 30, 1976, is suppressed.
We decree that this Apostolic Letter, given motu proprio, by which we approve the statutes below for a period of five years, be published in the newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.
Given in Rome, at St. Peter’s, on November 10, 2012, the memorial of Pope Saint Leo the Great, in the eighth year of our Pontificate.
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI