Papal Teachings on Latin

First Pope being handed keys from Christ

Pope Benedict XVI, just two months after his elevation to the papacy, urged all Catholics to learn the Church’s most common prayers in Latin. 


Pope Benedict XVI, Presentation of the Compendium, 2005
“Precisely in the multiplicity of languages and cultures, Latin, for so many centuries the vehicle and instrument of Christian culture, not only guarantees continuity with our roots but continues to be as relevant as ever for strengthening the bonds of unity of the faith in the communion of the Church”. 


First pope's pointing hand

Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, 2007
“Similarly, the better-known prayers of the Church’s tradition should be recited in Latin and, if possible, selections of Gregorian chant should be sung. I ask that future priests, from their time in the seminary, receive the preparation needed to understand and to celebrate Mass in Latin, and also to use Latin texts and execute Gregorian chant; nor should we forget that the faithful can be taught to recite the more common prayers in Latin, and also to sing parts of the liturgy to Gregorian chant.”


Pope Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter “Motu Proprio” Latina Lingua, 2012.

The Latin language has always been held in very high esteem by the Catholic Church and by the Roman Pontiffs. They have assiduously encouraged the knowledge and dissemination of Latin, adopting it as the Church’s language, capable of passing on the Gospel message throughout the world. This is authoritatively stated by the Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia of my Predecessor, Blessed John XXIII.

“It therefore appears urgently necessary to support the commitment to a greater knowledge and more competent use of Latin, both in the ecclesial context and in the broader world of culture”.


Pope John XXIII, (the pope who convened Vatican II), Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia, 1962

“But amid this variety of languages a primary place must surely be given to that language which had its origins in Latium, and later proved so admirable a means for the spreading of Christianity throughout the West. 

And since in God’s special Providence this language united so many nations together under the authority of the Roman Empire — and that for so many centuries — it also became the rightful language of the Apostolic See.Preserved for posterity, it proved to be a bond of unity for the Christian peoples of Europe.

“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 favor any one nation, but presents itself with equal impartiality to all and is equally acceptable to all.” 

“The Latin language ‘can be called truly catholic.’ It has been consecrated through constant use by the Apostolic See, the mother and teacher of all Churches, and must be esteemed ‘a treasure … of incomparable worth.‘ … It is also a most effective bond, binding the Church of today with that of the past and of the future in wonderful continuity.”

Keys of the pope
Pope St Peter on the chair

“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 noblemajestic and non-vernacular.”

“For 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.”

[Latin] 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.”

“We also, impelled by the weightiest of reasons … are fully determined to restore this language to its position of honor and to do all We can to promote its study and use. The employment of Latin has recently been contested in some quarters, and many are asking what the mind of the Apostolic See is in this matter. We have therefore decided to issue the timely directives contained in this document, so as to ensure that the ancient and uninterrupted use of Latin be maintained and, where necessary, restored.”

“Finally, in virtue of Our apostolic authority, We will and command that all the decisions, decrees, proclamations and recommendations of this Our Constitution remain firmly established and ratified, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, however worthy of special note.”


Pope Paul VI, 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 your fathers which were your glory for centuries.”

“We cannot permit something that could be the cause of your own downfall, that could be the source of serious loss to you, and that surely would afflict the Church of God with sickness and sadness…. The same Church gives you the mandate to safeguard the traditional dignity, beauty, and gravity of the choral office in both its language [Latin] and its chant…. Obey the commands that a great love for your own ancient observances itself suggests….”

“For while some are very faithful to the Latin language, others wish to use the vernacular within the choral office. Others, in various places, wish to exchange that chant which is called ‘Gregorian’, for newly-minted melodies. Indeed, some even insist that Latin should be wholly suppressed.
We must acknowledge that We have been somewhat disturbed and saddened by these requests. One may well wonder what the origin is of this new way of thinking and this sudden dislike for the past; one may well wonder why these things have been fostered.”

Pope Paul VI, General Audience, November 26, 1969
“[There is a] beauty, power and expressive sacrality of Latin.”
“[Latin is] the speech of the Christian centuries…the literary preserve of sacred utterance.”
“[Latin is] the language of the angels.”


Saint Peter holding the keys

Pope Pius XII, a few days before his death, 1958

“The day the Church abandons her universal tongue [Latin] is the day before she returns to the catacombs”


Pope John Paul II recommended wider use of Latin in the liturgy

The use of Latin “is an indispensable condition for a proper relationship between modernity and antiquity, for dialogue among different cultures, and for reaffirming the identity of the Catholic priesthood.” 


Pope John Paul II, Dominicae Cenae 10, 1980

Latin … through its dignified character elicit[s] a profound sense of the Eucharistic Mystery” 

The Roman Church has special obligations towards Latin, the splendid language of ancient Rome, and she must manifest them whenever the occasion presents itself.


Pope John Paul II Allocutio Libenter vos salutamus, 1978

“We address especially the young people: In an epoch when in some areas, as you know, the Latin language and the human values are less appreciated, you must joyfully accept the patrimony of the language which the Church holds in high esteem and must, with energy, make it fruitful. The well-known words of Cicero, “It is not so much excellent to know Latin, as it is a shame not to know itin a certain sense are directed to you. … We exhort you all to lift up high the torch of Latin which is even today a bond of unity among peoples of all nations.”


Pope St Pius X, Tra Le Sollecitudini, 1903

The language proper to the Roman Church is Latin.”


Pope Leo XIII, Depuis le Jour, 1899

“The Latin tongue [is] the key…of sacred science”


Pope Pius XI, Officiorum Omnium, 1922

“For the Church, since it contains all nations in its embrace, since it is going to endure until the consummation of the ages, and since it utterly excludes the common people from its governance, requires by its own nature a universal language, unchangeable, not that of the common people.

“Since Latin is such a language, it was divinely foreseen that it should be something marvellously useful for the Church as teacher…that they might easily compare the respective thoughts and insights of their minds, but also – and this is even more important – something with which they might understand more profoundly the things of mother Church, and might be united more closely with the head of the Church.”


Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, 1947

“The use of the Latin language prevailing in a great part of the Church affords at once an imposing sign of unity and an effective safeguard against the corruption of true doctrine.”

In front of Saint Peter's Church - 1st Pope

Additional Reasons to Pray in Latin