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Why John Paul I spoke Latin in his first homily as pope

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PUBLIC DOMAIN

Philip Kosloski - published on 09/01/22

John Paul I only delivered two homilies in his short pontificate, and he started he first homily speaking in Latin.

John Paul I is certainly among the least known popes in recent times, primarily due to his short reign as supreme pontiff of the Catholic Church.

Yet there are some fascinating aspects of this pope, who will be beatified on September 4, 2022.

For example, he only gave two homilies, one during the Inauguration of his Petrine Ministry and the second during the Possession of the Chair of St. Peter in Rome.

Interestingly, he began his first homily speaking in Latin.

After several paragraphs, he switched to Italian and said, “We have begun this homily in Latin, because, as is well known, it is the official language of the Church and is an evident and effective way expresses its universality and unity.”

His words appear to echo the Vatican II document, Sacrosanctum concilium, which stated, “Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.”

Typically official papal documents are written in or translated into Latin, but homilies were very often given in Italian, or in the local language (if the pope was traveling).

This is why it is fascinating that John Paul I would speak several paragraphs in Latin in his first homily as pope.

Latin continues to be used in the Vatican and remains the official language of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church.

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