Apostolic Constitution (Feb. 22, 1962) Pope John XXIII


 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


 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.


 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-
 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.


 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.


 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.


 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.


 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).


 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.


 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.