Although Milwaukee-born Carmelite Fr Reginald Foster, 68, who has translated speeches and letters for four popes, says he can see no future for the language, he has just launched a new Latin Academy in Rome, near the Pantheon, in his final effort to prevent it from dying out, the UK Telegraph reports.
He hopes to attract 130 students a year, though he will not say how the new school is being funded.
He said priests were no longer compelled to study Latin at seminaries, and now found it impossible to read vital theological tracts.
"You cannot understand St Augustine in English. He thought in Latin. It is like listening to Mozart through a jukebox," he told the British Sunday Telegraph. "We still speak Latin in the elevators and around the house in my monastery at San Pancrazio, just like 45 years ago. But nowadays the students don't get it, and I don't blame them - it's not their fault."
Until recently, Fr Foster taught a popular course at Rome's Jesuit-run Gregorian University until he was stopped by his superiors because he failed to charge fees to his students.
He said reports that Pope Benedict will reintroduce the Tridentine Mass, which dates from 1570 and is largely conducted in Latin, were wrong - not least because of the Pope's desire to avoid more controversies.
"He is not going to do it," Fr Foster said. "He had trouble with Regensberg, and then trouble in Warsaw, and if he does this, all hell will break loose."
In any case, he added: "It is a useless Mass and the whole mentality is stupid. The idea of it is that things were better in the old days. It makes the Vatican look medieval."
Although Pope Paul VI insisted on greater use of Latin within the Vatican, Fr Foster said more junior members of the Catholic hierarchy were less enthusiastic now.
"You do not need to be mentally excellent to know Latin. Prostitutes, beggars and pimps in Rome spoke Latin, so there must be some hope for us," he concluded.
Pope's Latinist pronounces death of a language (UK Telegraph, 27/1/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Latin Lover (Fr Coulter)
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29 Jan 2007