Cardinal Arinze in favor of Latin

Source: FSSPX News


During a conference given last November to the members of the Gateway Liturgical Conference in Saint Louis (MO, U.S.A.) and entitled Language in the Roman Rite Liturgy: Latin and the Vernacular, Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, defended the use of Latin in the Church.

The text of this conference was reprinted by the Fides Agency in Rome on December 20. If “language is not all,” it is, according to the Nigerian cardinal, one of the most important elements for good celebrations which are beautiful and rich in Faith.

If everybody does not know Latin, he acknowledged, the lay faithful could at least learn the more simple responses in Latin. For many, Latin is a dead language and unknown to the younger generation, but the African prelate thinks that in big churches where several Masses are celebrated, an effort could be made on Sundays or feast days. “Why not celebrate one of these Masses in Latin?” he asked. “In rural parishes, one Latin Mass should be possible, let us say once a month.”

For the prelate, at international assemblies, “Latin becomes even more urgent.” The opinion of the Prefect of the Dicastery in charge of the Liturgy is that seminaries should pay more attention to Latin and form priests in its use.

The official language of the Roman rite is Latin, he insisted, and according to him, it would be superficial to consider attention to this traditional language “as something esoteric, weird or outdated, old or medieval.” And he affirmed that in the religious realm, people have a tendency to keep what they have received from the very beginning, the way in which their predecessors expressed their Faith and prayed.

Cardinal Arinze wanted to refute the impression that the Second Vatican Council had discouraged the use of Latin in the Liturgy. “It is not so… Just before opening the Council, in 1962, blessed John XXIII wrote an Apostolic Constitution to insist upon the use of Latin in the Church,” he recalled. “The Council, if it admitted a certain introduction of the vernacular, insisted on the role of Latin,” he said.

In his opinion, Latin is “the right language for a Church which is universal, a Church in which all peoples, all languages and all cultures should feel at home,” and where nobody must be considered a foreigner, he went on. Besides, the Latin language has a stability which the languages spoken every day – in which the nuance or meaning of words often changes – cannot have.

“Latin has the characteristic of possessing words and expressions which keep the same meaning from generation to generation,” insisted Cardinal Arinze. This is an advantage when it comes to expressing the Catholic Faith and preparing pontifical documents or other Church texts. And he stated that Latin is concise, precise and poetically well measured. “Isn’t it wonderful that persons, especially clerics, if they have been well educated, can be present at international meetings and be able to communicate with one another at least in Latin,” he concluded.