VATICAN CITY – In a break with the past, Pope Francis has decided that Latin will not be the official language of a worldwide gathering of bishops at the Vatican.
A cardinal made the announcement at the start of the first working day of the two-week assembly, known as a synod, where about 200 Roman Catholic bishops from around the world are discussing themes related to the family.
Italian, the lingua franca of the Vatican, would become the synod’s official language, he said.
In past synods, Latin was the official language of documents for the meetings and some of the participants chose to speak in Latin. The pope decided to make the break in order to streamline the proceedings, officials said.
The move was a break with Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who two years ago started a new Vatican department to promote the study and use of Latin in the Roman Catholic Church and beyond.
When Benedict announced on Feb. 11, 2013, that he was stepping down, the first pope to do so in 600 years, he read a statement in Latin. Only one reporter listening to a live audio feed in the Vatican press room understood what he was saying.
The use of Latin in the church has greatly diminished since the old-style Latin Mass was phased out more than 40 years ago in favor of local languages.
Latin remains the official language of the universal church. It is used as the language of reference for translating major documents into modern languages.