Pope Francis called on young people to learn Latin so as to reflect “on the inner and intimate essence of the human being.” Reading the great texts of the Church in Latin may steer them away from modern-day obsessions, he told an assembly of teachers and professors. He urged teachers of Latin to “know how to speak to the hearts of the young, know how to treasure the very rich heritage of the Latin tradition to educate them in the path of life, and accompany them along paths rich in hope and confidence.”
The Pope spoke during a conference organized by the Pontifical Academies with the theme: “In interiore homine: Research paths in the Latin tradition.” He said that the “theme of interiority, of the heart, of consciousness and self-awareness” was found “in every culture as well as in the different religious traditions.” This type of reflection is needful today, he said, which is “often characterised by concern with appearance, superficiality, the division between heart and mind, interiority and exteriority, consciousness and behavior.”
The Pope warned against “labyrinths of superficiality and banality, of the external success that conceals an inner emptiness, of the hypocrisy that masks the split between appearances and the heart, between the beautiful and cared for body and the soul, empty and arid.” He praised the the “unforgettable wisdom” of St. Augustine, and quoted from his works “Of True Religion” and his Tractates on the Gospel of John. In the Tractates, Augustine wrote: “Return to your heart; see there what, it may be, you can perceive of God, for in it is the image of God. In the inner man dwells Christ, in the inner man are you renewed after the image of God, in His own image recognise its Author.”
The Pope said that times of crisis demand reflection “on the inner and intimate essence of the human being.”
Latin remains the official language of the Holy See and the Roman Rite of the Church. It became the official language of the Church in the 4th century, replacing Greek. The traditional Latin rite of the Mass incorporates some phrases and words from Greek and Aramaic.
In the time of Jesus, Hebrew was the language used at the Temple in Jerusalem and in synagogues for the reading of Scripture. In the Holy Land, Aramaic was a common language while Greek was used especially by officials and in commerce. There is a theory that when Jesus spoke with Pontius Pilate, the Roman official who condemned him to crucifixion, they spoke in Greek.
Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.