Change sometimes comes slowly to the Catholic Church. However, last month the Vatican’s communications strategy took a huge leap forward when Pope Benedict XVI joined other world leaders on Twitter, under the username @Pontifex.
At first, his Holiness tweeted in English on his main account, with 7 other accounts dedicated to tweets in languages including Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. Last weekend, the Pope launched another account, this time in Latin.
Why Latin? As it turns out, Pope Benedict has made reviving the world’s most popular dead language a priority. Plus, as Roberto Spataro, secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Latin Studies, told the Guardian, were it more widely understood, Latin as a language would be much better suited for Twitter than, say, English:
“Twitter is a tool which requires rapid communication. In English you say ‘the corruption of the best one is horrible.’ In Latin, three words suffice: ‘corrupt optima pessima.’ ‘It is a language which helps to think with precision and sobriety. And it has produced an exceptional heritage of science, knowledge and faith.”‘
Or, as the Telegraph’s Harry Mount put it:
“Translating from English to Latin is like squeezing a concertina shut; from Latin to English is like opening it up again, revealing many and varied English meanings in a single Latin word.”
Not everyone agrees, of course. NBC News quoted one Twitter user:
Benny, nobody understands a word of Latin!#adviceforthepope
Here’s another, more current tweet under the same hashtag:
It’s been more than three days since Latin died, it ain’t comin’ back. #adviceforthepope
— Pixie Ponderings (@Myssiana) January 21, 2013
Latin may be more suited to expressing ideas in 140 characters, but it’s hard to see it making much of a comeback on Twitter. Still, this an interesting way to try to bring attention to the language. Now if only the Vatican could master the art of the pithy Latin hashtag…