14 Quotes in Support of Latin in the Roman Catholic Church

Tomb of Pope John XXIII via  Diana at the German language Wikipedia.

Listers, please take the time to review these quotes on the importance and immutability of Latin in the Roman Catholic Church. Note the sources: many of which can certainly not be labeled (and discarded) as “traditionalists.” Latin in the Church is not a liberal or conservative issue, but a Catholic one.1

It [the Traditional Latin Mass] is virtually unchanged since the third century.
John Henry Cardinal Newman, “Callistus”


For the Church, precisely because it embraces all nations and is destined to endure until the end of time … of its very nature requires a language that is universal, immutable, and non-vernacular.
Pope Pius XI, Officiorum Omnium, 1922


The day the Church abandons her universal tongue [Latin] is the day before she returns to the catacombs.
Pope Pius XII


The use of the Latin language prevailing in a great part of the Church affords at once an imposing sign of unity and an effective safeguard against the corruptions of true doctrine.
Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, 1947, Sec. 60


Latin is the immutable language of the Western Church.
Pope John XXIII


The Catholic Church has a dignity far surpassing that of every merely human society, for it was founded by Christ the Lord. It is altogether fitting, therefore, that the language it uses should be noble, majestic, and non-vernacular.
Pope John XXIII, Veterum Sapientia, February 22, 1962 (just eight months before the opening of Vatican II), chap. 13


We also, impelled by the weightiest of reasons … are fully determined to restore this language to its position of honor and to do all We can to promote its study and use. The employment of Latin has recently been contested in some quarters, and many are asking what the mind of the Apostolic See is in this matter. We have therefore decided to issue the timely directives contained in this document, so as to ensure that the ancient and uninterrupted use of Latin be maintained and, where necessary, restored.
Pope John XXIII, Veterum Sapientia,
February 22, 1962 (just eight months before the opening of Vatican II), chap. 13


The use of the Latin language … is to be preserved in the Latin rites.
Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium
(Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), para. 36.1


In accordance with the age-old tradition of the Latin rite, the Latin language is to be retained by clerics in the Divine Office.
Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium
(Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), para. 101.1


If the Church is to remain truly the Catholic Church, it is essential to keep a universal tongue.
Cardinal Heenan (1967)


The Latin language is assuredly worthy of being defended with great care instead of being scorned; for the Latin Church it is the most abundant source of Christian civilization and the richest treasury of piety…. We must not hold in low esteem these traditions of your fathers, which were your glory for centuries.
Pope Paul VI, Sacrificium Laudis, August 15, 1966, Epistle to Superiors General of Clerical Religious Institutes Bound to Choir, on the Celebration of the Divine Office in Latin


We cannot permit something that could be the cause of your own downfall, that could be the source of serious loss to you, and that surely would afflict the Church of God with sickness and sadness…. The same Church gives you the mandate to safeguard the traditional dignity, beauty, and gravity of the choral office in both its language [Latin] and its chant…. Obey the commands that a great love for your own ancient observances itself suggests….
Pope Paul VI, Sacrificium Laudis, August 15, 1966,
Epistle to Superiors General of Clerical Religious Institutes Bound to Choir, on the Celebration of the Divine Office in Latin


We address especially the young people: In an epoch when in some areas, as you know, the Latin language and the human values are less appreciated, you must joyfully accept the patrimony of the language which the Church holds in high esteem and must, with energy, make it fruitful. The well-known words of Cicero, “It is not so much excellent to know Latin, as it is a shame not to know it” [Non tam praeclarum est scire Latine, quam turpe nescire (Brutus, xxxvii.140)] in a certain sense are directed to you. We exhort you all to lift up high the torch of Latin which is even today a bond of unity among peoples of all nations.
Pope John Paul II, 1978


Nevertheless, there are also those people who, having been educated on the basis of the old liturgy in Latin, experience the lack of this “one language,” which in all the world was an expression of the unity of the Church and through its dignified character elicited a profound sense of the Eucharistic Mystery. It is therefore necessary to show not only understanding but also full respect towards these sentiments and desires. As far as possible these sentiments and desires are to be accommodated, as is moreover provided for in the new dispositions. The Roman Church has special obligations towards Latin, the splendid language of ancient Rome, and she must manifest them whenever the occasion presents itself.
Pope John Paul II, Dominicae Cenae,
February 24, 1980, sec. 10

  1. Thanks to John Henry for compiling the quotes []
  • wil

    we no longer have a universal church! I wanted to buy some catholic bible and catechism software from Logos but was told as I am not a resident of the U.S.A., I am unable to buy. Was told USCCB will not permit my buying it. So seems to me USCCB belong to U.S.A. (American) church and not to the Catholic, Universal Church.
    As far I can determine, the USCCB would have no objection to my buying protestant bible of catechism software from Logos as long as it is not Roman Catholic.
    Universal – not from my experience.

  • Excellent post. And some of those quotes are very sobering.

    Maybe having the Mass in English was not a good idea after all.

  • irishsmile

    I know that both my husband and I love the TLM. We were raised with it & there is nothing more beautiful. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to matter how many motu proprios that our Supreme Roman Pontiffs promulgate, many of the bishops just ignore the Vatican. Here in Southern Oregon, we would have to drive 5 hours to pray this liturgy. That is a disgrace! It seems strange to me that some/many of our “Sheperds” are actively blowing-off the instructions from Rome to them regarding this liturgy.

  • Frances

    Blah-blah-blah. All these popes, cardinals and bishops who extolled the liturgy in Latin were all talk. When was the last time you saw a Pope celebrate the TLM in public, on World Youth’s Day?

  • rod larocque

    The restoration of Latin is essential to the restoration of the Church. But it is so obviously completely abandoned… why?
    Try and suggest having prayers in Latin or heaven forbid the Traditional Latin Mass and you will be looked at like a nut-case.
    Truly a diabolical disorientation has entered the Church considering what was going on in the Church just prior to Vatican II.

    • Deborist Benjamin

      I have just returned to the Faith after a long absence, call it a spiritual eclipse in my life, none the less trying to make up and keep up is near futile, but please tell me what you implied about what was going on in the Church prior to Vatican II? I won’t know where to look for your answer once I leave this site, so my email is deborist@yahoo.com, thank you in advance!

  • Ye-es, but….
    even before the Great Schism of 1054, when the unity of the Church was unquestioned, most of the Eastern Churches were indeed celebrating the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom in their vernaculars: Greek, Arabic, or what have you. This practice had no negative effect on either the inviobility of Tradition or theological doctrine in either East or West. As you well know, the division between the Church of Rome and the Eastern Orthodox Churches is largely a question of discipline, rather than dogma, and extent rather than essence (what are the limits of the authority of the Bishop of Rome, to what degree may we venerate the Blessed Virgin Theotokos without straying into overly-excessive devotion or idolatry, etc.)

    All to the point, the Eastern Churches have maintained intact the same doctrine dating back to the Seventh Ecumenical Council, despite speaking the common tongue and lacking a Supreme Pontiff. If the Church of Rome finds itself in dire straits (which, incidentally, would make a terrific name for a rock band — oh, it was, sorry)I think it may a bit too pat and convenient to simply blame a language. Rememebr the Church was One Holy Catholic and Apostolic even BEFORE Latin was used as an official language. If Christ’s promise is true that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against His Church, then the change of a language is surely of little consequence? Or else perhaps you are in error regarding some essential point, just sayin’….

    • Joseph

      Absolutely. Latin is the least of the Church’s problems right now. Based on all this blustering about Latin, you might think that the Lord himself spoke Latin! Latin is about as far away from Aramaic as one can get. I think all this stuff about Latin has much more to do with in-group identity than holiness. Holiness has little to do with what language we speak.

      • jpaYMCA

        Absolutely, because Our Lord couldn’t possibly have spoken Latin – being in the Roman Empire and all – and at 12, in the temple, he definitely spoke Aramaic rather than Hebrew (it’s only the Semitic scholars who don’t understand this!); certainly you aren’t judging souls for their obsession with Latinity which has to do with fitting in rather than obeying the commands (and even exhortations) of Peter and the entire magisterium, cf. Luke’s Gospel 10:16, besides the other Petrine and Apostolic Authority passages.

  • d

    Let’s go back to praying the rosary during Mass or having our noses stuck in the Missalettes trying to figure out where we are in the Mass. The switch to the vernacular from Latin at the 2nd Vatican Council and Sacrosanctum Concilium was to engender full and active participation in the Mass. All of the other crud that has happened since then is due to the ouigi board or spirit of Vatican II: turning altars to face people, removing tabernacles from the Church, removing altar rails, singing horrid rock or pop songs (that are all about us or our situation), since the Mass is all about us anyway.

  • Taylor

    D, the first part of your comment is both misleading and inaccurate.

    First off, all the regulars at my Extraordinary Form-only parish can navigate a missal without A) having to have their noses buried in the missal and B) having trouble knowing where they are in the Mass. Go to a TLM for four or five Sundays in a row and you’ll get the rhythm.

    Secondly, if what you said was true, why is that a problem? We know the saints that came out of the times of the TLM, and the holy, reverent people. Either St. Bernadette understood, and was a saint, or didn’t understand, and became a saint anyway.

    Finally, participatio actuosa in the Novus Ordo is terrible. You have to sit there and wait for your turn to dialogue, you have to wait to do something until the cantor raises their arms, you cannot be in sacred silence to pray because you have to be doing your communion hymn almost before you’ve swallowed Our Lord, etc. The true active participation is simply not possible in the Novus Ordo due to its frenetic nature. In the Extraordinary Form, sure, people may be allowed to disengage and pray the Rosary (not in itself a bad thing), but they are not hindered by the liturgy itself, which in the Novus Ordo prevents the internal participation.

  • joel laure

    it’s not just the latin language that must have been preserved but the whole liturgy in latin because it is our only connection to our forefathers who handed the true faith to us.but sad to say the 2nd vatican council cut it and threw all the traditions we inherited since time of the ancient fathers and introduce a new rite for the mass.this is a new mass for NEW CHURCH?

  • Joseph

    “The Catholic Church has a dignity far surpassing that of every merely human society, for it was founded by Christ the Lord. It is altogether fitting, therefore, that the language it uses should be noble, majestic, and non-vernacular.”

    Jesus had little use for “dignity.” He became the most undignified man to ever live — for love of us. I’d think that the language he spoke might be a model for language we use in liturgy, and if we can’t get back to that language, then it’s not so relevant what language we use. Aramaic was not “dignified” — ascribing dignity to a language belies an ignorance of both language and culture.

    Do we really expect those coming from non-western background to have to learn Latin? Imagine if the Church had started in Zambia… would you want to learn an African language to participate in the most important event of your life? Imagine you had to learn Tibetan. Latin is not so difficult for us westerners but for speakers of non-western languages it is indeed difficult and incredibly time-consuming — and that time could be better spent, especially if you’re struggling just to survive. In short, I think we need to broaden our perspective here.

  • Mrs. Barbara Horutz

    Latin was established in the Roman Catholic Church to make it Universal, in other words, you can attend Mass anywhere in the world and follow the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with your missal and be able to know what is happening. Yes I want Latin back in the Mass. The Popes were right, if you are a cradle Catholic you must agree with the Holy Father, he is Christ on earth.

  • Wesley

    I think you are missing the point. It is not so much the Latin that makes it so important, its the reason Latin is a dead spoken language meaning it can’t be changed or altered. English or any other language used in the Novus Ordo mass will always be changed. The Latin Mass will stay the same and cannot or will not be open to the slang of everyday communication. The reason for Latin, especially in the Mass, is because we, including the priest at mass are praying to God. It cuts out the conversation with the priest and the people. The reason the priest is facing “away” from the people is because he is facing the same way as everyone else–towards God in the Blessed Tabernacle (the True center of worship). The TLM is also more reverent towards God. I have noticed at the TLM parishes the altar boys and people bow slightly at the sound of Christ’s name. The priest, you can see, will genuflect constantly throughout mass towards the altar. We go up during Holy Communion and bow towards our Lord and receive Christ on our tongues because, indeed, it is Christ’s Holy Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. You say that Latin shouldn’t be the top topic in the Church…I agree; it’s the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that will help the Church. Holiness has absolutely nothing to do with the language we speak but how we treat our Lord and how we reverence ourselves to the Christ. Go find out how awesome the Traditional Latin Mass is. Go and support the TLM. God Bless. Future Tridentine Seminarian

  • Julie

    Wesley! excellent response, and I couldn’t have said it better, that the reverence and outward show of love and devotion in the Latin mass is what it is all about! The Latin is an important tool in maintaining this sense of holiness of the Liturgy because it is immune to the changes that any vernacular language goes through over time, and therefore it is not a street language but a liturgical language for the ones who attend the TLM, to transport them beyond this world in order to receive that taste of heaven which is the mass on earth!!
    God bless you and I will pray for you to complete your training and to one day be a holy priest of Our Lord and Our Lady! God be with you, and keep you close to His Sacred Heart!! Julie

  • Charles Woodbury

    After 5 years in the Marines, I got out in 1971 to find a strange church. Qur altar rails were gone, some churches moved the tabernacle into a broom closet somewhere, priests nodded to an empty altar instead of genuflecting to a tabernacle. Almost all the reverence to God was destroyed. Small wonder many don’t believe in the real presence. A few changes in the words of the liturgy, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass will be changed into a strange sort of happy meal.

  • Lori Marie Quinn (Waters)

    The Latin Language is Beautiful, and There Are Many Expressions From It Used Around The World today, Which Make it A Historical Friend. Jesus More Likely Spoke Possibly Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. Who Then Spoke Latin? St Peter, Who Established The Church.

    I Speak English, and Sometimes Goto Spanish Mass. Here, My Son Complains, For There’s No Understanding, No Meaning. When I Explain The Sacrament Of The Eucharist is The Same No Matter What Language is Used, It Means Nothing.

    There is Nostalgia in Languages. We Don’t Want To Lose One. Gaelic is Another Example. It’s Sad Losing A Language, For It’s as If A People Are Wiped Out, and Something Missing, But Yet Nothing is Missing and People Are Not Wiped Out, and We Become Much Closer To ONE.

    Once Every Doctor Had To Know Latin, His Scripts Were Written in Latin, Pharmacists Had To know Latin. All Priests, Had To Know Latin, Nuns Sang In Latin, but Today is Not Yesterday.

    If The Priest’s Sermon, and All The Word Were Done in Latin, Then Those Advocating Latin Would Perhaps Be Displeased.

    We All Have Nostalgia, but We Could Never Go Back, For The Universal Language is Not Latin, But English.
    Time Always Evolves Man .