By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
2/5/2014 (1 year ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
A couple years ago, Pope Benedict became the first pontiff to "tweet." That is, to send a message via the popular social networking site Twitter, where each post is limited to about 140 characters. The opening of the account was a sign the papacy was getting with the times and connecting with youth. Now, Pope Francis is tweeting in Latin, and exciting a new generation with this powerful and ancient language.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Pope Francis's Latin Twitter feed has nearly 209,000 followers as of this morning. Fans of Latin, and those who simply love the church, are opting to receive the Latin tweets, even if they can't quite understand them.
The tweets make good exercises for students who are learning Latin, and they are routinely shared by those who still speak Latin as a result of the academic or clerical training.
Pray for Pope Francis!
However, the tweets can sometimes pose a challenge to Pope Francis's staff as they tried to translate his expressions into Latin phrases that don't really exist in the ancient language of the Romans.
For example, Pope Francis used the term "sourpuss." There's no equivalent expression for that word in Latin. So Pope Francis's staff went to work trying to find some way to translate the term. Finally, one of the staff proposed translating it to "vultu truci" a phrase taken from the Roman playwright Plautus. Roughly translated, the phrase means a person with a "hard face." Not particularly accurate, it was still enough to convey the meaning.
The Latin language is one of brevity, almost laconic compared to modern languages which tend to be much more florid. This makes translating modern languages into Latin a bit complex.
Although low level academics have long proclaimed the death of Latin as a language, it remains the official language of the Roman Catholic Church today. And it is still widely taught and its aficionados still correspond in converse in it as well as read original Roman texts in Latin.
In fact, Latin was standard education for most school children throughout Europe and even in parts of the United States, until the last century.
Latin was an important and unifying language that united the Roman Empire. It gave people from diverse regions with different languages and customs, a common vernacular with which to communicate. After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476 A.D., the Catholic Church remained the primary social institution in Western Europe. In order for clergy to communicate with one another across borders, Latin was essential.
For centuries, all official documents as well as popular writings, were composed exclusively in Latin. It wasn't until the Renaissance, around the 14th century, that writers started to use the vernacular, in place of Latin.
Today, as millions of people embrace Pope Francis who brings a fresh energy to the Catholic Church, they are also discovering the joy of Latin. The eloquent language is easy to learn with proper instruction, and in fact many modern European languages, known as the Romance languages, are based directly on it.
People who are interested in learning Latin can do so using popular software tools such as "Rosetta Stone" and can purchase Latin primers and books to learn from. Many colleges and universities still offer Latin courses to interested students. And of course, those who join the clergy as priests, typically have the opportunity to learn Latin while in seminary.
For the casual layperson, who simply interested in following Pope Francis and receiving his Latin tweets, you can do so using his handle @Pontifex-ln on Twitter. Typically, English translations are readily available on his English twitter feed. However, it's always fun to try to figure out the tweet for yourself. And if you get stuck, Google Translate does a decent job of translating most of the tweets.
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