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How Did Latin Help a Reporter Break the Story of Pope Benedict’s Resignation?

We always hear the phrase Latin is dead. While it is true that Latin is now considered a dead language, it is still used today. But how did knowing Latin help a reporter get the scoop on Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation?

Pope Benedict XVI resigned in February 2013. He announced his resignation in Latin. While all the other reporters waited for the official translation, Giovanna Chirri, broke the story because she understood what he had said. 

How is Latin a Dead Language?

We still see a lot of Latin phrases being used today, although it is no longer spoken on a regular basis. The bigger question here is, how does a language die?

Back when the Catholic Church was highly influential, Latin became the king of all languages. It was used for international communication and academia. Even if the language is still used to some extent, there are no more native speakers of the said language.

Historically speaking, Latin didn’t really die. Most words used in various languages like French, Spanish, Italian, and even English have a Latin origin. These languages also include the tenses and grammar that are Latin-influenced.

One of the reasons Latin was phased out is because of its complexity. Classic Latin is quite complicated. Almost every word has a modifier based on the aspect, case, gender, mood, number, tense, and voice.

By the end of the 6th century, people that hailed from different regions could no longer speak Latin, and they couldn’t understand each other. This was when Latin had officially died as a language.

The language is not completely extinct since Western literature and science still use it for certain terminologies like scientific names. (Source: Seeker)

How Did Knowing Latin Help Giovanna Chirri?

Giovanna Chirri, a reporter for ANSA, Italy’s state-run news agency, was among the few journalists at the papal announcment in February 2013. Not a lot of media outlets chose to cover the event, it seemed like a mundane series of church announcements.

Pope Benedict XVI then said that he would resign from his position due to old age. He gave his statement in Latin. The news of his resignation would later on shock the billions of Roman Catholics around the world. (Source: The Guardian)

Chirri is skilled in Latin, but it took a lot of confidence to trust that she understood from the Pope’s statement. She says did not feel confident when she translated his speech.

The news of his resignation didn’t seem real to me. I told myself that “you misunderstood”. I fought to keep my nerve despite my knees feeling weak.

Giovanna Chirri

She also explained that the Pope’s Latin was very easy to understand. But it was not until the translator repeated the announcement did the news actually sink in with her. (Source: CNN)

Does the Catholic Church Still Use Latin Today?

Services of the Catholic Church are conducted in various languages depending on where you are. However, Latin is still the official language of the Roman Catholic church. However, all official acts and announcements of the church in Rome are in Latin. (Source: CNN)

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