Latin Mass
Sancta Missa

Frequently Asked Questions

HISTORY OF LATIN IN THE CHURCH

1.  Why is the Mass said in Latin?

The Catholic Faith, which is so beautifully expressed in the Holy Mass, was spread by the Apostles and by the early Christian missionaries throughout the Roman Empire. The common language of the Roman Empire was Latin, but in the East, Greek was the vulgar tongue. Thus in the Roman Rite, while both Greek and Latin were used as liturgical languages, the preference was eventually given to the use of Latin, while some use of the Greek was maintained.

It has been the consistent teaching of many Popes, moreover, that Latin has special qualities as a language of worship in the Roman Rite, giving us a common identity with our ancestors in the Faith.

Latin is a symbol of the visible universality and unity of the Church that helps preserve a bond of unity with our common center, Rome, 'the Mother and Teacher of all nations'.

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2.  As the languages of the different nations changed over the years, why did the Church cling to Latin, which is a dead language?

Because modern languages continue to develop, the meanings of the words evolve. For example, although the present vernacular Mass dates from only 1970, a new translation is already being prepared, amongst great disagreement as to the appropriate translation. Latin, by contrast, as a dead language, is unchanging and gives the standard to which all translations are referred. It therefore greatly helps to maintain unity of worship and prayer. Latin preserves the orthodox and unchanging meaning of the Mass from the danger of re-interpretation, which is possible when changes occur too frequently.

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