VETERUM SAPIENTIA Apostolic Constitution (Feb. 22, 1962) Pope John XXIII PART I: THE EXCELLENCE AND MERITS OF THE LATIN LANGUAGE The ancient wisdom contained in the literature of the Greeks and Romans, and also the memorable teachings of the ancient peoples, must be considered as a heralding dawn of the Gospel that the Son of God, "the arbiter and teacher of grace and doctrine, the light and guide of humanity" (Tertullian, Migne, PL 1934), announced on earth. The Fath- ers and Doctors of the Church recognize, in fact in those very ancient and most important literary monuments a certain preparation of souls for the divine riches that Jesus Christ in the economy "of the fulness of time" (Eph. 1:10) communicated to men. With the introduction of Christianity in the world nothing was lost, therefore, of what the preceding centuries had produced in truth, justice, nobility, and beauty. IT IS A PRECIOUS HERITAGE TRANSMITTED TO THE CHURCH The Church has, therefore, always held these venerable documents in the highest honor, especially those in Greek and Latin, which langua- ges are like the golden vestments of wisdom itself. It has also wel- comed the use of other venerable languages which blosssomed in the East and contributed to a great extent toward the progress of humanity and civilization and which, used in the sacred rites and in versions of Sacred Scriptures, are still in force in certain nations as the expression of an ancient, uninterrupted and living usage. In this variety of languages, that language undoubtedly excels which was born in the Latium region and which later became the admirable instrument for the propogation of Christendom in the West. Since this language, certainly with a special providence of God, united so many peoples under the authority of the Roman Empire for so many centuries, it became the proper language of the Holy See (Letter of the Sacred Congregation of Seminaries and Universities, "Vehementer Sane," July 1, 1908; Apostolic Letter, Unigenitus Dei Filius," Pius XI, Mar. 19, 1924). Preserved for posterity, it joined the Christian peoples of Europe together with close bonds of unity. THE QUALITIES OF LATIN ARE SUITED TO THE NATURE AND MISSION OF THE CHURCH Latin by its nature is perfectly adapted for promoting every form of culture among every people. It does not give rise to jealousies, is impartial with all, is not the privilege of anyone, and is well accep- ted by all. Neither should it be forgotten that Latin has a noble and characteristic conformation, "a concise, varied and harmonious style, full of majesty and dignity" (Apostolic Letter, Officiorum Omnium," Pius XI, Aug. 1, 1922) which contributes in a singular manner to clar- ity and solemnity. For these reasons the Apostolic See has always taken care to preserve Latin with zeal and love, and has considered it worthy of its own use, "as the splendid vesture of her heavenly doctrine and holy laws" (Motu Proprio, "Ltterarum Latinarum," Pius XI, Oct. 20, 1924), in the exer- cise of her sacred magisterium and in making it used by her ministers. Wherever they may be, her ministers can,, through the knowledge and use of Latin, become acquainted more promptly with what comes from the Roman See and can communicate with it and among themselves more free- ly. The full knowledge and fluent use of this language, so intimately connected with the life of the Church, "apply more to religion than to culture and letters" (Apostolic Letter, "Officiorum Omnium," Pius XI, Aug. 1, 1922), as was stated by Our Predecessor, of immortal memory, Pius XI, who, after a scientific study, indicated three qualities of this language admirably consonant with the very nature of the Church: "Embracing all nations within its bosom and destined to endure until the end of time, the Church by its nature requires a universal, immut- able and non-popular language" (Ibid.). Since every church must acknowledge the Roman Church as head (St. Ir- enaeus, Migne, PG, 7, 848), and since the Supreme Pontiffs have true "episcopal power, ordinary and immediate, over each and every church and over each and every pastor as well as over the faithful" (Canon 218, 2, of the Code of Canon Law), of every Rite, people and language, it follows therefore that the instrument of mutual communication sho- uld be universal and uniform, especially between the Holy See and the various churches of the the same Latin Rite. The Roman Pontiffs, when they wish to instruct Catholic peoples, and the congregations of the Roman Curia, when handling affairs and draw- ing up decrees that concern the entire community of the faithful, therefore always use the Latin language,which reaches all peoples in an acceptable and pleasing manner as the voice of a common mother. IMMUTABLE LANGUAGE The language used by the Church must not only be universal, but also immutable. This is because, should the truth of the Catholic Church be entrusted to certain or to many of the changing modern languages, in which none would be in a position of authority superior to the others, it would certainly happen that, varied as they are, the meaning of such truths would not be manifested to many with sufficient precision and clarity. Moreover, there would be no language which could serve as a common and constant norm, upon which should be based the exact mean- ing of the other languages. Latin, then, which for centuries has been spared from the variations of meaning which daily use normally introduces vocabularies, must be considered as being establshed and invariable, since the new meanings of certain Latin words, required by the development, by explanations and defenses of Christian truths, have already been firmly fixed for a long time. Since the Catholic Church, because it was founded by Christ the Lord, excels in dignity over all other human societies, it is just that it should not use a popular language but a noble and majestic one. AN INCOMPARABLE TREASURE AND THE KEY OF TRADITION The Latin language, which we can truly call catholic (Apostolic Lett- er "Officiorum Omnium," Pius XI, Aug. 1, 1922), having been consec- rated through constant use by the Apostolic See, mother and teacher of all the churches, must be considered, "a treasure...of incomparable value" (Ibid.), and a door which leads into direct contact with the Christian truths handed down by tradition and with the documents of the teaching of the Church (Encyclical Letter, "Depuis le Jour," Leo XIII, Sept. 8, 1899). Finally it is a most efficacious bond which joins the Church of today with that of the past and the future in won- derful and unchangeable continuity. EFFICACY, INFORMATION No one can doubt, furthermore, the special efficacy which Latin, and humanistic culture generally, have in the development and formation of the tender minds of youth. It cultivates, matures and perfects the best faculties of the spirit. It gives dexterity of mind and keenness of judgment. It broadens and consolidates the young intellect so that it may rightly embrace and appreciate all things, and it teaches one to think and speak with ut- most order. BECAUSE OF ITS MERITS, THE CHURCH HAS ALWAYS AN STILL DOES UPHOLD LATIN If on weighs these merits carefully, it can be easily understood why the Roman Pontiffs have so frequently not only exalted the importance and excellence of Latin but have also prescribed its study and its use for the sacred ministry of the secular and regular clergy, clearly denouncing the dangers that would derive from its being abandoned. Urged by the same most grave reasons that prompted Our predecessors and the provincial synods (Westminster, 1859; Paris, 1849; Avignon, 1848; Burgos, 1850; Esztergom, 1858; Suchnensis, 1803), we also there- fore intend with firm determination that the study and use of this language, restored to its dignity, should be promoted and put into ef- fect in an ever-greater measure. And since in our times the use of Latin is contested in many places, and since many ask what is the thought of the Apostolic See in this matter, We have decided to provide, through the timely norms contained in this solemn document, that the ancient and uninterrupted use of Latin be maintained and, where it has been almost completely abandon- ed, that it be completely re-established. We believe, moreover, that Our thoughts on this matter have already been expressed sufficiently clearly in the following words addressed to illustrious Latin scholars: "Unfortunately there are many who, strangely blinded by the marvelous progress of science, seek to discard or to reduce the study of Latin and other similar disciplines...But We, precisely because of this impelling necessity, believe that a different road should be followed. "We believe this since what penetrates the mind and fixes itself therein is what more closely corresponds to human nature and dignity, and should therefore be acquired with greater ardor for its formative and ennobling effect on the mind, so that poor mortals may not become cold, hard, and devoid of love like the machines that they build" (Remarks of Pope John, Sept. 7, 1959; Apr. 15, 1959; Aug. 26, 1961; Oct. 7, 1961; Dec. 9, 1961). PART II: PROVISIONS FOR THE REBIRTH OF THE STUDY AND USE OF LATIN After having examined and carefully pondered what has so far been outlined, We, fully conscious of Our office and Our authority, estab- lish and order the following: 1. That both bishops and superiors general of religious orders see to it that in their seminaries and schools, where young men are prepared for the priesthood, all show themselves submissive to the will of the Apostolic See on this point and that they scrupulously follow these Our directives. 2. That the same authorities see to it with paternal concern that none of their subjects, moved by an inordinate desire for novelty, writes against the use of Latin either in the teaching of the sacred disciplines or in the sacred rites of the liturgy, or, prompted by prejudice, lessens the directive force of the will of the Apostolic See in this matter or alters its meaning. 3. That, in the same way as is established both by the Code of Canon Law (Canon 1364) and by Our predecessors, candidates for the priest- hood, before beginning ecclesiastical studies properly so-called, be instructed with utmost care in Latin by expert professors with a fit- ting method and for an adequate period of time; and this in order to avoid that subsequently, "having progressed to higher disciplines, they cannot, because of a culpable ignorance of Latin, understand them fully, and still less exercise themselves in those scholastic debates through which the minds of young men are trained for the defense of truth" (Apostolic Letter, "Officiorum Omnium," Pius XI, Aug. 1, 1922). We intend that this apply also to those who have been called by God to the priesthood at a mature age, having received no or inadequate classical education. In fact, no one may be admitted to the study of the philosophic or theological discipline if he has not first been fully instructed in this language and if he cannot use it. 4. If in some countries the study of Latin has diminished in some manner to the harm of real and sound formation, because ecclesiastical schools have assimilated the study programs of the public schools, it is Our wish that the traditional place given to the teaching of this language be completely re-established, for everyone must be persuaded that on this point also the proper requirements for the formation of future priests must be scrupulously protected, not only in what conc- erns the number and quality of subjects, but also in what concerns the time given to teaching these subjects. When, because of circumstances of time or place, other subjects must be added to the usual ones, the duration of the course of studies will then either have to be extended or the additional studies will have to be given in an abridged form or they will have to be postponed to a later date. 5. The principal sacred disciplines must, as has been ordered several times, be taught in Latin, that language which from many centuries of use we know is "most suitable for explaining with special facility and clarity the intimate and profound nature of things" (Letter of Sacred Congregation of Seminaries and Universities, "Vehementer Sane," July 1, 1908). This is true because, in addition, to having been for many centuries enriched with its own words, well-defined in their meaning and there- fore suited to the integral preservation of the deposit of the Cath- olic Faith, Latin is also well-fitted for avoiding superfluous verbos- ity. Those, therefore, who teach these disciplines in universities or seminaries must speak in Latin and use Latin textbooks. If, because of their ignorance of Latin, they cannot suitably fulfill these provisions of the Holy See, they should be replaced gradually by professors more suited to this task. The difficulties that may arise either with the students or with the professors must be overcome thr- ough the firm will of the bishops and religious superiors and through the docility and good will of the teachers. LATIN INSTITUE WILL BE ESTABLISHED 6. Since Latin is the living language of the Church, and in order th- at it may be adapted to the linguistic demands which increase daily, and that it may also be enriched with new and fitting words of its own in a manner that is uniform, universal and consonant with the charac- ter of the ancient Latin language - a manner already followed by the Holy Fathers and by the best scholastic writers - We give a mandate to the Sacred Congregation of Seminaries and Universities to found an academic institute of the Latin languages. This institute will have a body of professors highly skilled in Latin and Greek who come from the different parts of the world, and will have as its principal aim-like those national academies founded to promote their respective languages-that of presiding over the ordered development of the Latin language, adding, if necessary, to the lexi- con of words which befit its individual character and color. It will also conduct schools of the Latin of every epoch, particularly the Christian epoch. Persons will be trained in these schools in the most full and prof- ound knowledge of latin, its use and its particular elegance of style. They will be persons who are destined to teach latin in seminaries and ecclesiastical colleges, or to write decrees, opinions and letters in the ministries of the Holy See, in episcopal curias and in the offices of religious orders. 7. Since Latin is closely linked with Greek through the nature of its conformation and through the importance of the works handed down to us, as also often ordered by Our predecessors, the future ministers of the altar will also have to be instructed in Greek from the time of the lower and middle schools (roughly equivalent to junior high schools) so that, when they study the higher disciplines, and espec- ially when they aspire to academic degrees in Sacred Scripture, and theology, they may follow and correctly understand not only the Greek sources of scholastic philosophy, but also the original texts of Sac- red Scripture, of liturgy and of the holy Greek Fathers (Encyclical Letter, Providentissimus Deus," Leo XIII, Nov. 18, 1893; Letter, "Plane Quidem Intelligis," Leo XIII, May 20, 1885; Allocution, "Magis Quam," Pius XII, Sept. 23, 1951). 8. We also order the Sacred Congregation of Seminaries and Univers- ities to prepare a regulation for Latin studies which must be faith- fully observed by all in order to give those who follow it a suitable knowledge of the use of the language. This program may, because of special requirements, be rearranged differently by the different commissions of ordinaries, but its nature and its aim must never be changed or lessened. Ordinaries must understand, however, that they may not put their pro- jects into effect without submitting them first for examination and approval to the Sacred Congregation. What We have established, decreed, ordered and prescribed through this Our constitution, We wish and command with Our authority that everything contained herein remain definitively established and ratif- ied, and that no other prescription or concession, however worthy of special mention, shall have effect against this order. Given in Rome at St. Peter's, February 22, the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, in the year 1962, the fourth of Our Pontificate.