Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia
Pope John XXIII, A.D. 1962
Introduction and analysis by David Trumbull. The text is an apostolic constitution
(constitutio apostolica), the highest level of decree issued by the Pope.
The use of the term constitution comes from Latin constitutio, which referred to any
important law issued by the Roman emperor, and reflects the influence of Roman law
on canon law. Blessed John XXIII (Ioannes PP. XXIII), born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli
(November 25, 1881–June 3, 1963), was elected 261st Pope of the Catholic Church October 28, 1958.
He called the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), but did not live to see its completion,
dying on June 3, 1963. He was beatified on September 3, 2000.
Although the Constitution promotes the study the Latin tongue
as the living language of the Catholic Church, the Holy Father's opening
Chapter does not mention Latin once, nor is language per se addressed at all.
Rather the Pope praises the veterum sapientia, or ancient wisdom, of pre-Christian Greek and Roman
philosophers which prepared classical civilization to receive the light of the Gospel.
Nor is such ancient knowledge highly esteemed solely as preparatory of the revelation
of God in Christ; rather, as the Church has always held, when the Christian faith
supplanted pagan philosophy, "nothing was lost that was in any way true, just, noble and beautiful."
Therefore Catholic philosophers and theologians are free to gather what gold they may in the writings
of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
The Holy Father then turns to Latin -- as well as Greek and the other
ancient tongues of the East, which are still used by the Oriental Churches --
in Chapter 2. His phrase sapientiae ipsius auream quasi vestem must be more than coincidentally
related to the Psalm verse filiae regum in honore tuo adstetit regina a dextris tuis
in vestitu deaurato circumdata varietate (Psalm 44:10, or, Psalm 45:10 in the Coverdale translation in
The Book of Divine Worship "Kings' daughters are among thy honourable women; * upon thy right hand
doth stand the queen in a vesture of gold, wrought about with divers colours.") Saint Augustine explicated
this Psalm verse thus:
On Your right hand stood the Queen,
in a vesture of gold, clothed about with various colours. What is the vesture of this Queen?
It is one both precious, and also of various colours: it is the mysteries of doctrine
in all the various tongues: one African, one Syrian, one Greek, one Hebrew, one this,
and one that; it is these languages that produce the various colours of this vesture.
But just as all the various colours of the vesture blend together in the one vesture,
so do all the languages in one and the same faith. In that vesture, let there be diversity,
let there be no rent. See we have understood the various colours of the diversity of tongues;
and the vesture to refer to unity: but in that diversity itself, what is meant by the gold?
Wisdom itself. Let there be any diversity of tongues you please, but there is but one gold
that is preached of: not a different gold, but a different form of that gold. For it is
the same Wisdom, the same doctrine and discipline that every language preaches.
In the languages there is diversity; gold in the thoughts.
If then, on so strong an authority as Augustine, we can say, "Let there be any diversity of tongues
you please... [so long as] there is but one gold [doctrine] that is preached," what is
the need for an Apostolic Constitution on the promotion of the study of Latin?
The question we pose is answered by the Pope in Chapter 3. As we
discussed in relation to Chapter 1, Catholic theologians and philosophers over the past two millennia
have not scrupled to draw on the insights of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Plutarch, while remaining faithful to the
Holy Scriptures, the traditions of the Fathers, and the Magisterium of the Church, because
truth is a unity and cannot be truth in one age and untruth in another. Likewise justice, nobility,
beauty, and all virtues are unities. It follows then the language that brought the Gospel to the West (truth),
with no impartiality and not favoring any nation (justice), with a voice of authority arising from
its immutability (nobility), and with "concise, varied and harmonious style, full of majesty" (beauty)
has all the marks of being one of those things the Church inherited from the pre-Christian
world, and has not lost.
The argument, from history and culture, that Latin both converted and unified Europe
is persuasive, as is appeal to the literary magnificence of a language that is
both beautiful and enduring. However, in Chapter 4 the Pope points out that
this Constitution is not arguing from tradition or esthetics. Rather the Apostolic See
"has always been at pains to preserve Latin, deeming it worthy of being used in the
exercise of her teaching authority." And he quotes Pope Pius XI that "For the
Church precisely because it embraces all nations and is destined to endure to the end of time ...
of its very nature requires a language which is universal, immutable and non-vernacular."
In Chapters 5, 6, and 7, the author takes up in order those three requirements
for the Church's tongue: universality, immutability, and noble elevation above the vernacular.
The Holy Father concludes in Chapter 8 that the constant use of Latin by the Apostolic
See and the antiquity of use of Latin for the Church's teaching bind the past and future together
so that, to quote Pius XI, the Latin language "can be called truly catholic."
Chapter 9 treats of the practical benefits of studying Latin to develop the mind, an argument
that is expanded upon in Chapter 10 where the Pope argues, against those who would elevate
science above language and literature, saying, "The greatest impression is made on the
mind by those things corresponding more closely to man's nature and dignity. Otherwise
poor mortal creatures may well become like the machines they build -- cold, hard,
and devoid of love."
In Chapter 11 the Holy Father sets forth eight decrees regarding the promotion of the study
of Latin. (1) Those in charge of seminaries where men are formed for the priesthood must implement
the Constitution's provisions for the promotion of Latin. Note that, throughout, the decrees of the Constitution
are directed toward the formation of priest. Laymen may find edification or enjoyment in the
study of Latin, but they are in no way put under obligation by this Constitution. (2) The Constitution
positively proscribes those in charge of the seminaries where priests are trained from writing
against the use of Latin or even making light of the Constitution's requirements regarding
the use of Latin in the seminaries. (3) The Constitution decrees that training for the priesthood
not be begun until Latin is thoroughly mastered, and directs the reader to Canon 1364 of Canon Law of 1917 which states
In inferioribus Seminarii scholis:
This Code was replaced in 1983; the current Canon states:
1º Praecipuum locum obtineat religionis disciplina, quae, modo singulorum ingenio et aetati accommodato,
2º Linguas praesertim latinam et patriam alumni accurate addiscant;
3º Ea in ceteris disciplinis institutio tradatur quae conveniat communi omnium culturae et statui clericorum
in regione ubi alumni sacrum ministerium exercere debent.
Institutionis sacerdotalis Ratione provideatur ut alumni non tantum accurate linguam patriam edoceantur,
sed etiam linguam latinam bene calleant necnon congruam habeant cognitionem alienarum linguarum, quarum scientia ad
eorum formationem aut ad ministerium pastorale exercendum necessaria vel utilis videatur.
Canon 249 is rendered in English as:
The program of priestly formation is to provide that students not only are carefully taught their native language
but also understand Latin well and have a suitable understanding of those foreign languages which seem necessary
or useful for their formation or for the exercise of pastoral ministry.
(4) At seminaries where the study of Latin has been neglected or is not as thorough as it should be
the traditional method of teaching shall be restored and if other studies are taking time away
for the study of Latin it is those other studies that shall be curtailed to make way for the
traditional study of Latin.
(5) Sacred studies shall be conducted in Latin out of textbooks in Latin. (6) That is so because
Latin is the living language of the Church, and to that end a Latin Academy shall be erected
to promote Latin as a living language. (7) Greek also is required of those are trained for the priesthood.
(8) The Sacred Congregation of Seminaries and
Universities shall prepare a mandatory syllabus for the teaching of Latin.
So, what do we make of Veterum sapientia? Obvious this Apostolic Constitution,
the highest level of decree issued by the Pope,
was almost entirely ignored. Searching the internet I find several traditionalist websites and blogs with the
English-language translation of the Constitution, but almost no analysis of the document or of its
influence (or rather lack of influence) on the Church. One website www.superflumina.org
quotes from Iota Unum, A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the XXth Century,
translated from the Second Italian Edition by Rev. Fr. John P Parsons, Kansas City (Sarto House), 1996, pp. 58-60.:
“By Veterum Sapientia John XXIII wanted to bring about a return of the Church to its own principles,
this return being necessary in his mind for the renewal of the Church in its own proper nature at the present
“The Pope attributed a very special importance to the document, and the solemnities with which he surrounded
its promulgation in St Peter’s, in the presence of the cardinals and of the whole Roman clergy, are unique in
the history of the present century. The outstanding importance of Veterum Sapientia is not destroyed by
the oblivion to which it was immediately dispatched, nor by its historical lack of success; values are not values
only when they are accepted. Its importance comes from its perfect conformity with the historic reality which is the Church.
“The [Apostolic Constitution] is above all an affirmation of continuity. The Church’s culture is continuous
with that of the Greco-Roman world, first and foremost because Christian literature has been since its
beginnings Greek and Latin literature…
“The practical and disciplinary section of Veterum Sapientia is as crystal clear as its doctrine.
It is the very precision of its requirements that led to its nullification, when it was not backed up by papal authority…
“The general collapse of the use of Latin, following as it did upon a project for its general restoration,
provides a further proof of the paradoxical outcome of the [Second Vatican] Council. Veterum Sapientia,
being concerned as it was with an historically essential facet of Catholicism, called for an outstanding effort
on the part of the authorities issuing it, and an harmonious response on the part of those responsible
for its implementation… The reform of ecclesiastical studies, however, was annihilated in very short order,
having met opposition from many quarters for a variety of reasons, principally in Germany in a book by
one Winninger, bearing a preface by the Bishop of Strasbourg. The Pope, having stood firm to start with,
later gave orders that the implementation of the document should not be insisted on; those who would
have had the duty of putting it into effect imitated this papal weakness, and Veterum Sapientia,
which had been so loudly praised as useful and opportune, was completely wiped from memory, and is not
cited in any conciliar document. Some biographies of John XXIII do not mention it at all, just as if it
did not exist, and never had; while the more arrogant accounts mention it simply as an error.
There is not, in the whole history of the Church, another instance of a document’s being so solemnly emphasised,
and then being so unceremoniously cast out so soon afterwards…”
Below is the text of the Constitution in Latin (with the original footnotes) and with parallel English translation.
Ionnes PP. XXIII
Servus Servorum Dei
Ad Perpetuam Rei Memoriam
De Latinitatis Stvdio Provenhendo
Pope John XXIII
Servant of the Servants of God
In Perpetual Memory
On the Promotion of the Study of Latin
1. Veterum Sapientia, in Graecorum Romanorumque inclusa litteris, itemque clarissima
antiquorum populorum monumenta doctrinae, quasi quaedam praenuntia aurora sunt habenda evangelicae
veritatis, quam Filius Dei, gratiae disciplinaeque arbiter et magister, illuminator ac deductor
generis humani \1\, his nuntiavit in terris. Ecclesiae enim
Patres et Doctores, in praestantissimis vetustorum illorum temporum memoriis quandam
agnoverunt animorum praeparationem ad supernas suscipiendas divitias, quas Christus Iesus
in dispensatione plenitudinis temporum \2\ cum mortalibus communicavit;
ex quo illud factum esse patet, ut in ordine rerum christianarum instaurato nihil sane perierit,
quod verum, et iustum, et nobile, denique pulchrum ante acta saecula peperissent.
1. The wisdom of the ancient world, enshrined in Greek and Roman literature, and the
truly memorable teaching of ancient peoples, served, surely, to herald the dawn
of the Gospel which Gods Son, "the judge and teacher of grace and truth, the
light and guide of the human race," proclaimed on earth.
Such was the view of the Church Fathers and Doctors. In these outstanding literary
monuments of antiquity, they recognized man's spiritual preparation for the
supernatural riches which Jesus Christ communicated to mankind "to give history
its fulfillment." Thus the inauguration of Christianity did not mean
the obliteration of man's past achievements. Nothing was lost that was in any way true,
just, noble and beautiful.
2. Quam ob rem Ecclesia sancta eius modi sapientiae documenta, et in primis Graecam Latinamque
linguas, sapientiae ipsius auream quasi vestem, summo quidem honore coluit: atque etiam venerandos
sermones alios, qui in orientis plagis floruerunt, quippe cum ad humani generis profectum et ad
mores conformandos haud parum valerent, in usum recepit; iidemque sive in religiosis caerimoniis sive
in Sacrarum Scripturarum interpretatione adhibiti, usque ad praesens tempus in quibusdam regionibus,
perinde ac vivacis antiquitatis numquam intermissae voces, viguerunt.
2. The Church has ever held the literary evidences of this wisdom in the highest
esteem. She values especially the Greek and Latin languages in which wisdom
itself is cloaked, as it were, in a vesture of gold. She has likewise welcomed
the use of other venerable languages, which flourished in the East. For these
too have had no little influence on the progress of humanity and civilization.
By their use in sacred liturgies and in versions of Holy Scripture, they have
remained in force in certain regions even to the present day, bearing constant
witness to the living voice of antiquity.
3. Quarum in varietate linguarum ea profecto eminet, quae primum in Latii finibus exorta,
deinde postea mirum quantum ad christianum nomen in occidentis regiones disseminandum profecit.
Siquidem non sine divino consilio illud evenit, ut qui sermo amplissimam gentium consortionem
sub Romani Imperii auctoritate saecula plurima sociavisset, is et proprius Apostolicae Sedis
evaderet \3\ et, posteritati servatus, christianos Europae populos alios cum aliis arto unitatis
3. But amid this variety of languages a primary place must surely be given to that language
which had its origins in Latium, and later proved so admirable a means
for the spreading of Christianity throughout the West. And since in God's special Providence
this language united so many nations together under the authority of the Roman Empire
-- and that for so many centuries -- it also became the rightful language of the
Apostolic See. Preserved for posterity, it proved to be a bond
of unity for the Christian peoples of Europe.
Suae enim sponte naturae lingua Latina ad provehendum apud populos quoslibet
omnem humanitatis cultum est peraccommodata: cum invidiam non commoveat, singulis gentibus
se aequabilem praestet, nullius partibus faveat, omnibus postremo sit grata et amica.
Neque hoc neglegatur oportet, in sermone Latino nobilem inesse conformationem et proprietatem;
siquidem loquendi genus pressum, locuples, numerosum, maiestatis plenum et dignitatis \4\
habet, quod unice et perspicuitati conducit et gravitati.
Of its very nature Latin is most suitable for promoting every form of culture among
peoples. It gives rise to no jealousies. It does not favor any one nation, but
presents itself with equal impartiality to all and is equally acceptable to all.
Nor must we overlook the characteristic nobility of Latin formal structure. Its
"concise, varied and harmonious style, full of majesty and dignity"
makes for singular clarity and impressiveness of expression.
4. His de causis Apostolica Sedes nullo non tempore linguam Latinam studiose asservandam
curavit eamque dignam existimavit qua tamquαm magnifica caelestis doctrinae
sanctissimarumque legum veste \5\ uteretur ipsa in sui exercitatione magisterii, eademque uterentur
sacrorum administri. Hi namque ecclesiastici viri, ubicumque sunt gentium, Romanorum sermone adhibito, quae
sunt Sanctae Sedis promptius comperire possunt, atque cum ipsa et inter se expeditius habere commercium.
4. For these reasons the Apostolic See has always been at pains to preserve Latin, deeming it
worthy of being used in the exercise of her teaching authority "as the splendid
vesture of her heavenly doctrine and sacred laws." She further
requires her sacred ministers to use it, for by so doing they are the better
able, wherever they may be, to acquaint themselves with the mind of the Holy See
on any matter, and communicate the more easily with Rome and with one another.
Eam igitur, adeo cum vita Ecclesiae conexam, scientia et usu habere perceptam,
non tam humanitatis et litterarum, quam religionis interest \6\, quemadmodum Decessor
Noster imm. mem. Pius XI monuit, qui, rem ratione et via persecutus, tres demonstravit huius linguae
dotes, cum Ecclesiae natura mire congruentes: Etenim Ecclesia, ut quae et nationes
omnes complexu suo contineat, et usque ad consummationem saeculorum sit permansura...,
sermonem suapte natura requirit universalem, immutabilem, non vulgarem \7\.
Thus the "knowledge and use of this language," so intimately bound up with the Church's
life, "is important not so much on cultural or literary grounds, as for
religious reasons." These are the words of Our Predecessor Pius XI,
who conducted a scientific inquiry into this whole subject, and indicated three
qualities of the Latin language which harmonize to a remarkable degree with the
Church's nature. "For the Church, precisely because it embraces all nations and
is destined to endure to the end of time ... of its very nature requires a
language which is universal, immutable, and non-vernacular."
5. Nam cum ad Ecclesiam Romanam necesse sit omnem convenire
ecclesiam \8\, cumque Summi Pontifices potestatem habeant vere episcopalem,
ordinariam et immediatam tum in omnes et singulas Ecclesias, tum in omnes et
singulos pastores et fideles \9\ cuiusvis ritus, cuiusvis gentis, cuiusvis linguae,
consentaneum omnino videtur ut mutui commercii instrumentum universale sit et aequabile,
maxime inter Apostolicam Sedem et Ecclesias, quae eodem ritu Latino utuntur. Itaque tum Romani Pontifices,
si quid catholicas gentes docere volunt, tum Romanae Curiae Consilia, si qua negotia expediunt,
si qua decreta conficiunt, ad universitatem fidelium spectantia, semper linguam Latinam haud secus
usurpant, ac si materna vox ab innumeris gentibus accepta ea sit.
5. Since "every Church must assemble round the Roman Church," and since the
Supreme Pontiffs have "true episcopal power, ordinary and immediate, over each
and every Church and each and every Pastor, as well as over the faithful"
of every rite and language, it seems particularly desirable that the instrument
of mutual communication be uniform and universal, especially between the
Apostolic See and the Churches which use the same Latin rite.
When, therefore, the Roman Pontiffs wish to instruct the Catholic world, or when the
Congregations of the Roman Curia handle matters or draw up decrees which concern
the whole body of the faithful, they invariably make use of Latin, for this is a
maternal voice acceptable to countless nations.
6. Neque solum universalis, sed etiam immutabilis lingua ab Ecclesia adhibita sit oportet.
Si enim catholicae Ecclesiae veritates traderentur vel nonnullis vel multis ex mutabilibus linguis
recentioribus, quarum nulla ceteris auctoritate praestaret, sane ex eo consequeretur, ut hinc
earum vis neque satis significanter neque satis dilucide, qua varietate eae sunt, omnibus pateret;
ut illinc nulla communis stabilisque norma haberetur, ad quam ceterarum sensus esset expendendus.
Re quidem ipsa, lingua Latina, iamdiu adversus varietates tuta, quas cotidiana populi consuetudo
in vocabulorum notionem inducere solet, fixa quidem censenda est et immobilis; cum novae quorundam
verborum Latinorum significationes, quas christianarum doctrinarum progressio, explanatio, defensio
postulaverunt, iamdudum firmae eae sint rataeque.
6. Furthermore, the Church's language must be not only universal but also
immutable. Modern languages are liable to change, and no single one of them is
superior to the others in authority. Thus if the truths of the Catholic Church
were entrusted to an unspecified number of them, the meaning of these truths,
varied as they are, would not be manifested to everyone with sufficient clarity
and precision. There would, moreover, be no language which could serve as a
common and constant norm by which to gauge the exact meaning of other renderings.
But Latin is indeed such a language. It is set and unchanging. it has long since ceased to
be affected by those alterations in the meaning of words which are the normal
result of daily, popular use. Certain Latin words, it is true, acquired new
meanings as Christian teaching developed and needed to be explained and
defended, but these new meanings have long since become accepted and firmly established.
7. Cum denique catholica Ecclesia, utpote a Christo Domino condita, inter omnes
humanas societates longe dignitate praestet, profecto decet eam lingua uti
non vulgari, sed nobilitatis et maiestatis plena.
7. Finally, the Catholic Church has a dignity far surpassing that of every merely
human society, for it was founded by Christ the Lord. It is altogether fitting,
therefore, that the language it uses should be noble, majestic, and non-vernacular.
8. Praetereaque lingua Latina, quam dicere catholicam vere possumus \10\,
utpote quae sit Apostolicae Sedis, omnium Ecclesiarum matris et magistrae,
perpetuo usu consecrata, putanda est et thesaurus ... incomparandae praestantiae \11\,
et quaedam quasi ianua, qua aditus omnibus patet ad ipsas christianas veritates antiquitus
acceptas et ecclesiasticae doctrinae monumenta interpretanda \12\; et vinculum denique peridoneum,
quo praesens Ecclesiae aetas cum superioribus cumque futuris mirifice continetur.
8. In addition, the Latin language "can be called truly catholic." It has
been consecrated through constant use by the Apostolic See, the mother and
teacher of all Churches, and must be esteemed "a treasure ... of incomparable
worth." It is a general passport to the proper understanding of
the Christian writers of antiquity and the documents of the Church's teaching.
It is also a most effective bond, binding the Church of today with that of the
past and of the future in wonderful continuity.
9. Neque vero cuique in dubio esse potest, quin sive Romanorum sermoni sive honestis litteris ea
vis insit, quae ad tenera adulescentium ingenia erudienda et conformanda perquam apposita ducatur,
quippe qua tum praecipuae mentis animique facultates exerceantur, maturescant, perficiantur;
tum mentis sollertia acuatur iudicandique potestas; tum puerilis intellegentia aptius
constituatur ad omnia recte complectenda et aestimanda; tum postremo summa ratione sive cogitare
sive loqui discatur.
9.There can be no doubt as to the formative and educational value either of the language of
the Romans or of great literature generally. It is a most effective training for
the pliant minds of youth. It exercises, matures and perfects the principal
faculties of mind and spirit. It sharpens the wits and gives keenness of
judgment. It helps the young mind to grasp things accurately and develop a true
sense of values. It is also a means for teaching highly intelligent thought and speech.
10. Quibus ex reputatis rebus sane intellegitur cur saepe et multum Romani Pontifices non solum
linguae Latinae momentum praestantiamque in tanta laude posuerint, sed etiam studium et
usum sacris utriusque cleri administris praeceperint, periculis denuntiatis ex eius neglegentia manantibus.
10. It will be quite clear from these considerations why the Roman Pontiffs have so often
extolled the excellence and importance of Latin, and why they have prescribed
its study and use by the secular and regular clergy, forecasting the dangers
that would result from its neglect.
Iisdem igitur adducti causis gravissimis, quibus Decessores Nostri et Synodi Provinciales \13\,
Nos quoque firma voluntate enitimur, ut huius linguae, in suam dignitatem restitutae,
studium cultusque etiam atque etiam provehatur. Cum enim nostris temporibus sermonis
Romani usus multis locis in controversiam coeptus sit vocari, atque adeo plurimi quid Apostolica Sedes
hac de re sentiat exquirant, in animum propterea induximus, opportunis normis gravi hoc documento editis,
cavere ut vetus et numquam intermissa linguae Latinae retineatur consuetudo, et, sicubi prope exoleverit, plane redintegretur.
And We also, impelled by the weightiest of reasons -- the same as those which prompted
Our Predecessors and provincial synods -- are fully determined to
restore this language to its position of honor, and to do all We can to promote
its study and use. The employment of Latin has recently been contested in many
quarters, and many are asking what the mind of the Apostolic See is in this
matter. We have therefore decided to issue the timely directives contained in
this document, so as to ensure that the ancient and uninterrupted use of Latin
be maintained and, where necessary, restored.
Ceterum qui sit Nobismetipsis hac de re sensus, satis aperte, ut Nobis videtur, declaravimus,
cum haec verba ad claros Latinitatis studiosos fecimus: Pro dolor, sunt sat multi, qui
mira progressione artium abnormiter capti, Latinitatis studia et alias id genus
disciplinas repellere vel coërcere sibi sumant... Hac ipsa impellente necessitate, contrarium
prosequendum iter esse putamus. Cum prorsus in animo id insideat, quod magis natura
et dignitate hominis dignum sit, ardentius acquirendum est id, quod animum colat et ornet,
ne miseri mortales similiter ac eae, quas fabricantur, machinae, algidi, duri et amoris expertes exsistant \14\.
We believe that We made Our own views on this subject sufficiently clear when We
said to a number of eminent Latin scholars: "It is a
matter of regret that so many people, unaccountably dazzled by the marvelous
progress of science, are taking it upon themselves to oust or restrict the study
of Latin and other kindred subjects.... Yet, in spite of the urgent need for
science, Our own view is that the very contrary policy should be followed. The
greatest impression is made on the mind by those things which correspond more
closely to man's nature and dignity. And therefore the greatest zeal should be
shown in the acquisition of whatever educates and ennobles the mind. Otherwise
poor mortal creatures may well become like the machines they build -- cold,
hard, and devoid of love."
11. Quibus perspectis atque cogitate perpensis rebus, certa Nostri muneris
conscientia et auctoritate haec, quae sequuntur, statuimus atque praecipimus.
11. With the foregoing considerations in mind, to which We have given careful thought,
We now, in the full consciousness of Our Office and in virtue of Our authority,
decree and command the following:
§ 1. Sacrorum Antistites et Ordinum Religiosorum Summi Magistri parem dent operam, ut vel
in suis Seminariis vel in suis Scholis, in quibus adulescentes ad sacerdotium instituantur
hac in re Apostolicae Sedis voluntati studiose obsequantur omnes, et
hisce Nostris praescriptionibus diligentissime pareant.
§ 2. Paterna iidem sollicitudine caveant, ne qui e sua dicione, novarum rerum studiosi,
contra linguam Latinam sive in altioribus sacris disciplinis tradendis sive in
sacris habendis ritibus usurpandam scribant, neve praeiudicata opinione Apostolicae Sedis
voluntatem hac in re extenuent vel perperam interpretentur.
§ 3. Quemadmodum sive Codicis Iuris Canonici (can. 1364) sive Decessorum Nostrorum praeceptis statuitur,
sacrorum alumni, antequam studia proprie ecclesiastica inchoent, a peritissimis magistris apta via
ac ratione congruoque temporis spatio lingua Latina accuratissime imbuantur, hanc etiam ob causam,
ne deinde, cum ad maiores disciplinas accesserint... fiat ut prae sermonis inscitia plenam doctrinarum
intellegentiam assequi non possint, nedum se exercere scholasticis illis disputationibus, quibus egregie
iuvenum acuuntur ingenia ad defensionem veritatis \15\. Quod ad eos quoque pertinere volumus,qui natu
maiores ad sacra capessenda munia divinitus vocati, humanitatis studiis vel nullam vel nimis tenuem tradiderunt
operam. Nemini enim faciendus est aditus ad philosophicas vel theologicas disciplinas tractandas,
nisi plane perfecteque hac lingua eruditus sit, eiusque sit usu praeditus.
§ 4. Sicubi autem, ob assimulatam studiorum rationem in publicis civitatis scholis obtinentem,
de linguae Latinae cultu aliquatenus detractum sit, cum germanae firmaeque doctrinae detrimento,
ibi tralaticium huius linguae tradendae ordinem redintegrari omnino censemus; cum persuasum cuique esse
debeat, hac etiam in re, sacrorum alumnorum institutionis rationem religiose esse tuendam, non tantum ad
disciplinarum numerum et genera, sed etiam ad earum docendarum temporis spatia quod attinet. Quodsi, vel
temporum vel locorum postulante cursu, ex necessitate aliae sint ad communes adiciendae disciplinae,
tunc ea de causa aut studiorum porrigatur curriculum, aut disciplinae eaedem in breve cogantur,
aut denique earum studium ad aliud reiciatur tempus.
§ 5. Maiores sacraeque disciplinae, quemadmodum est saepius praescriptum, tradendae sunt lingua
Latina; quae ut plurium saeculorum usu cognitum habemus, aptissima existimatur ad difficillimas
subtilissimasque rerum formas et notiones valde commode et perspicue explicandas \16\; cum
superquam quod propriis ea certisque vocabulis iampridem aucta sit, ad integritatem catholicae fidei
tuendam accommodatis, etiam ad inanem loquacitatem recidendam sit non mediocriter habilis.
Quocirca qui sive in maximis Athenaeis, sive in Seminariis has profitentur disciplinas,
et Latine loqui tenentur, et libros, scholarum usui destinatos, lingua Latina scriptos adhibere.
Qui si ad hisce Sanctae Sedis praescriptionibus parendum, prae linguae Latinae ignoratione, expediti
ipsi non sint, in eorum locum doctores ad hoc idonei gradatim sufficiantur.
Difficultates vero, si quae vel ab alumnis vel a professoribus afferantur, hinc Antistitum et
Moderatorum constantia, hinc bono doctorum animo eae vincantur necesse est.
§ 6. Quoniam lingua Latina est lingua Ecclesiae viva, ad cotidie succrescentes sermonis necessitates
comparanda, atque adeo novis iisque aptis et congruis ditanda vocabulis, ratione quidem aequabili,
universali et cum veteris linguae Latinae ingenio consentanea - quam scilicet rationem et Sancti Patres
et optimi scriptores, quos scholasticos vocant, secuti sunt - mandamus propterea S. Consilio
Seminariis Studiorumque Universitatibus praeposito, ut Academicum Latinitatis Institutum condendum curet.
Huic Instituto, in quo corpus Doctorum confletur oportet, linguis Latina et Graeca peritorum, ex variisque
terrarum orbis partibus arcessitorum, illud praecipue erit propositum, ut - haud secus atque singularum
civitatum Academiae, suae cuiusque nationis linguae provehendae constitutae - simul prospiciat congruenti
linguae Latinae progressioni, lexico Latino, si opus sit, additis verbis cum eius indole et colore proprio
convenientibus; simul scholas habeat de universa cuiusvis aetatis Latinitate, cum primis de christiana.
In quibus scholis ad pleniorem linguae Latinae scientiam, ad eius usum, ad genus scribendi proprium et elegans
ii informabuntur, qui vel ad linguam Latinam in Seminariis et Collegiis ecclesiasticis docendam, vel ad decreta
et iudicia scribenda, vel ad epistolarum commercium exercendum in Consiliis Sanctae Sedis, in Curiis
dioecesium, in Officiis Religiosorum Ordinum destinantur.
§ 7. Cum autem lingua Latina sit cum Graeca quam maxime coniuncta et suae conformatione naturae et
scriptorum pondere antiquitus traditorum, ad eam idcirco, ut saepe numero Decessores Nostri praeceperunt,
necesse est qui futuri sunt sacrorum administri iam ab inferioris et medii ordinis scholis instituantur;
ut nempe, cum altioribus disciplinis operam dabunt, ac praesertim sit aut de Sacris Scripturis aut de sacra
theologia academicos gradus appetent, sit ipsis facultas, non modo fontes Graecos philosophiae
scholasticae, quam appellant, sed ipsos Sacrarum Scripturarum, Liturgiae, Ss.
Patrum Graecorum primiformes codices adeundi probeque intellegendi\17\.
§ 8. Eidem praeterea Sacro Consilio mandamus, ut linguae Latinae docendae rationem, ab omnibus
diligentissime servandam, paret, quam qui sequantur eiusdem sermonis iustam cognitionem et usum capiant.
Huismodi rationem, si res postulaverit, poterunt quidem Ordinariorum coetus aliter digerere, sed eius
numquam immutare vel minuere naturam. Verumtamen iidem Ordinarii consilia sua, nisi fuerint a Sacra
Congregatione cognita et probata, ne sibi sumant efficere.
§ 1. Bishops and superiors-general of religious orders shall take pains to ensure
that in their seminaries and in their schools where adolescents are trained for
the priesthood, all shall studiously observe the Apostolic See's decision in
this matter and obey these Our prescriptions most carefully.
§ 2. In the exercise of their paternal care they shall be on their guard lest anyone under
their jurisdiction, eager for revolutionary changes, writes against the use of
Latin in the teaching of the higher sacred studies or in the Liturgy, or through
prejudice makes light of the Holy See's will in this regard or interprets it falsely.
§ 3. As is laid down in Canon Law (can. 1364) or commanded by Our Predecessors, before
Church students begin their ecclesiastical studies proper they shall be given a
sufficiently lengthy course of instruction in Latin by highly competent masters,
following a method designed to teach them the language with the utmost accuracy.
"And that too for this reason: lest later on, when they begin their major
studies . . . they are unable by reason of their ignorance of the language to
gain a full understanding of the doctrines or take part in those scholastic
disputations which constitute so excellent an intellectual training for young
men in the defense of the faith."
We wish the same rule to apply to those whom God calls to the priesthood at a more
advanced age, and whose classical studies have either been neglected or
conducted too superficially. No one is to be admitted to the study of philosophy
or theology except he be thoroughly grounded in this language and capable of using it.
§ 4. Wherever the study of Latin has suffered partial eclipse through the
assimilation of the academic program to that which obtains in State public
schools, with the result that the instruction given is no longer so thorough and
well-grounded as formerly, there the traditional method of teaching this
language shall be completely restored. Such is Our will, and there should be no
doubt in anyone's mind about the necessity of keeping a strict watch over the
course of studies followed by Church students; and that not only as regards the
number and kinds of subjects they study, but also as regards the length of time
devoted to the teaching of these subjects.
Should circumstances of time and place demand the addition of other subjects to the
curriculum besides the usual ones, then either the course of studies must be
lengthened, or these additional subjects must be condensed or their study
relegated to another time.
§ 5. In accordance with numerous previous instructions, the major sacred sciences shall
be taught in Latin, which, as we know from many centuries of use, "must be
considered most suitable for explaining with the utmost facility and clarity the
most difficult and profound ideas and concepts." For apart from the
fact that it has long since been enriched with a vocabulary of appropriate and
unequivocal terms, best calculated to safeguard the integrity of the Catholic
faith, it also serves in no slight measure to prune away useless verbiage.
Hence professors of these sciences in universities or seminaries are required to speak
Latin and to make use of textbooks written in Latin. If ignorance of Latin makes
it difficult for some to obey these instructions, they shall gradually be
replaced by professors who are suited to this task. Any difficulties that may be
advanced by students or professors must be overcome by the patient insistence of
the bishops or religious superiors, and the good will of the professors.
§ 6. Since Latin is the Church's living language, it must be adequate to daily increasing
linguistic requirements. It must be furnished with new words that are apt and
suitable for expressing modern things, words that will be uniform and universal
in their application. and constructed in conformity with the genius of the
ancient Latin tongue. Such was the method followed by the sacred Fathers and the
best writers among the scholastics.
To this end, therefore, We commission the Sacred Congregation of Seminaries and
Universities to set up a Latin Academy staffed by an international body of Latin
and Greek professors. The principal aim of this Academy -- like the national
academies founded to promote their respective languages -- will be to
superintend the proper development of Latin, augmenting the Latin lexicon where
necessary with words which conform to the particular character and color of the
language. It will also conduct schools for the study of Latin of every era, particularly the
Christian one. The aim of these schools will be to impart a fuller understanding
of Latin and the ability to use it and to write it with proper elegance. They
will exist for those who are destined to teach Latin in seminaries and
ecclesiastical colleges, or to write decrees and judgments or conduct
correspondence in the ministries of the Holy See, diocesan curias, and the
offices of religious orders.
§ 7. Latin is closely allied to Greek both in formal structure and in the importance of its
extant writings. Hence -- as Our Predecessors have frequently ordained -- future
ministers of the altar must be instructed in Greek in the lower and middle
schools. Thus when they come to study the higher sciences -- and especially if
they are aiming for a degree in Sacred Scripture or theology -- they will be
enabled to follow the Greek sources of scholastic philosophy and understand them
correctly; and not only these, but also the original texts of Sacred Scripture,
the Liturgy, and the sacred Fathers.
§ 8. We further commission the Sacred Congregation of Seminaries and Universities to
prepare a syllabus for the teaching of Latin which all shall faithfully observe.
The syllabus will be designed to give those who follow it an adequate
understanding of the language and its use. Episcopal boards may indeed rearrange
this syllabus if circumstances warrant, but they must never curtail it or alter
its nature. Ordinaries may not take it upon themselves to put their own
proposals into effect until these have been examined and approved by the Sacred
12. Extremum quae hac Nostra Constitutione statuimus, decrevimus, ediximus, mandavimus,
rata ea omnia et firma consistere et permanere auctoritate Nostra Apostolica volumus et
iubemus, contrariis quibuslibet non obstantibus, etiam peculiari mentione dignis.
Datum Romae, apud Sanctum Petrum, die XXII mensis Februarii, Cathedrae S. Petri Ap. sacro, anno MDCCCCLXII, Pontificatus Nostri quarto.
IOANNES PP. XXIII
12. Finally, in virtue of Our apostolic authority, We will and command that all the
decisions, decrees, proclamations and recommendations of this Our Constitution
remain firmly established and ratified, notwithstanding anything to the
contrary, however worthy of special note.
Given at Rome, at Saint Peter's, on the feast of Saint Peter's Throne on the 22nd day of
February in the year 1962, the fourth of Our pontificate.
IOANNES PP. XXIII
(1) Tertull., Apol. 21; Migne, PL 1, 394.
Eph. 1, 10. - Textus editus in AAS 54(1962) 129-35; et in L'Oss. Rom. 24 Febbr. 1962, p. 1-2.
Epist. S. Congr. Stud. Vehementer sane, ad Ep. universos, 1 Iul. 1908: Ench. Cler., N. 820. Cfr etiam Epist. Ap. Pii XI,
Unigenitus Dei Filius
, 19 Mar. 1924: A.A.S. 16 (1924), 141.
Pius XI, Epist. Ap.
1 Aug. 1922: A.A.S. 14 (1922), 452-453.
Pius XI, Motu Proprio
20 Oct. 1924: A.A.S. 16 (1924), 417.
Pius XI, Epist. Ap.
, 1 Aug. 1922: A.A.S. 14 (1922) 452.
S. Iren., Adv. Haer. 3, 3, 2; Migne, PG 7, 848.
Cfr C. I. C., can. 218, § 2.
Cfr Pius XI, Epist. Ap.
, 1 Aug. 1922: A.A.S. 14 (1922), 453.
Pius XII, Alloc. Magis quam, 23 Nov. 1951: A.A.S. 43 (1951) 737.
LEO XIII, Epist. Encycl. Depuis le jour, 8 Sept. 1899: Acta Leonis XIII 19 (1899) 166.
Cfr Collectio Lacensis, praesertim: vol. III, 1918s. (Conc. Prov. Westmonasteriense, a. 1859);
vol. IV, 29 (Conc. Prov. Parisiense, a. 1849); vol. IV, 149, 153 (Conc. Prov. Rhemense, a. 1849);
vol. IV, 359, 361 (Conc. Prov. Avenionense, a. 1849); vol. IV, 394, 396 (Conc. Prov. Burdigalense, a. 1850);
vol. V, 61 (Conc. Strigoniense, a. 1858); vol. V, 664 (Conc. Prov. Colocense, a. 1863);
vol. VI, 619 (Synod. Vicariatus Suchnensis, a. 1803).
Ad Conventum internat. « Ciceronianis Studiis provehendis », 7 Sept. 1959; in
Discorsi Messaggi Colloqui del Santo Padre Giovanni XXIII, I, pp. 234-235; cfr etiam Alloc. ad
cives dioecesis Placentinae Romam peregrinantes habita, 15 Apr. 1959:
L'Osservatore Romano, 16 apr. 1959; Epist. Pater misericordiarum, 22
Aug. 1961: A.A.S. 53 (1961), 677; Alloc. in sollemni auspicatione Collegii Insularum
Philippinarum de Urbe habita, 7 Oct. 1961:
L'Osservatore Romano, 9-10 Oct. 1961 Epist. Iucunda laudatio, 8
Dec. 1961: A.A.S. 53 (1961), 812.
Pius XI, Epist. Ap.
, 1 Aug. 1922: A.A.S. 14 (1922), 453.
Epist. S. C. Studiorum, Vehementer sane, 1 Iul. 1908: Ench. Cler., n. 821.
Leo XII, Litt. Encycl. Providentissimus Deus, 18 Nov. 1893: Acta Leonis
XIII, 13 (1893), 342; Epist. Plane quidem intelligis, 20 Maii 1885,
Acta, 5, 63-64; Pius XII, Alloc. Magis quam, 23 Sept. 1951: A.A.S. 43 (1951), 737.