Pope establishes pontifical Latin Academy

Paul Haring | Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI has established the "Pontifical Academy of Latinity" to promote the study of the Latin language and culture, and not just within the Catholic Church.

For more than 1,000 years, the Catholic Church has been the custodian and promoter of Latin "both in the theological and liturgical spheres as well as in the area of the formation and transmission of knowledge," the pope wrote Nov. 10 in the document establishing the Latin academy.

"From Pentecost, the Church has spoken and prayed in all the languages of humanity," the pope wrote, but the early Christian communities relied heavily on Latin and Greek language and culture to proclaim and explain the newness of the Christian Gospel.

The new academy, he said, should promote the study of Latin, particularly in Catholic schools, universities and seminaries, helping young generations learn Latin, "including through the use of modern means of communications."

Pope Benedict named as president of the new academy Ivano Dionigi, 64, a Latinist and rector of the Alma Mater Studiorum at the University of Bologna. The secretary of the academy is Salesian Father Roberto Spataro, secretary of the Pontifical Institute for Higher Latin Studies at the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome.

The pope placed the new academy under the Pontifical Council for Culture and said the academy would work with the Salesian institute to design and support Latin courses and seminars.

Pope Benedict said that as studies in the general field of humanities expand, it is surprising how superficial Latin studies have become, even for seminarians and priests. But serious studies of theology, liturgy, the Church fathers and canon law require knowledge of Latin because most of the basic sources in all those fields were written in Latin.

"There is an urgent need to support a commitment to a greater knowledge and more competent use of the Latin language, both in the Church and in the wider world of culture," the pope said.

The new academy replaces the Latinitas Foundation, which Pope Paul VI established in 1976 and placed under the authority of the Vatican Secretariat of State. The seven members of the secretariat's Office of Latin Letters -- mainly responsible for translating papal documents and correspondence into Latin -- carried out the bulk of the foundation's activities, including overseeing its journal, "Latinitas." The magazine now passes to the Latin academy.

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