Latin’s revival

VATICAN CITY — Surprisingly, the pope’s own Latinist had nothing to do with the recent birth of Latin on the Vatican’s official Web site.

Wisconsin native Carmelite Father Reginald Foster told CNS the other day he didn’t have a hand in the birth of the new “Sancta Sedes” section on, but he said he was thrilled it had happened. 

Fr. Reggie works in the Latin-language section of the the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and has been translating papal texts into Latin for 30 years. He said he could never understand why, until now, papal and Vatican documents “would come out and people couldn’t find them in Latin.” 

“Well, someone maybe caught on and fixed the thing,” he said.

He also senses there is “renewed interest” in this so-called dead language, but nothing like the old days when there used to be a 10-minute news show in Latin that aired daily on Vatican Radio.  After it was suspended he said “People were saying ‘What’s this! How’s this possible?!'”

For now, Latin lovers will have to content themselves with Fr. Reggie’s weekly program “The Latin Lover” on Vatican Radio or they can come to Rome and study Latin with the Carmelite priest at his own academy or they can go online and see what it’s all about.

After all, not only is it still the official language of the Vatican, quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur !

(which means “whatever is said in Latin sounds profound.”)

Revisiting ‘do space aliens have souls?’

This week’s comments by the Vatican’s astronomer on whether space aliens would need Christ’s redemption is not the first time the church has examined the topic. Our Carol Glatz in Rome wrote a story two and a half years ago headlined “Do space aliens have souls? Inquiring minds can check Jesuit’s book.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Galaxy-gazing scientists surely wonder about what kind of impact finding life or intelligent beings on another planet would have on the world.

But what sort of effect would it have on Catholic beliefs? Would Christian theology be rocked to the core if science someday found a distant orb teeming with little green men, women or other intelligent forms of alien life? Would the church send missionaries to spread the Gospel to aliens? Could aliens even be baptized? Or would they have had their own version of Jesus and have already experienced his universal or galactic plan of salvation?

Curious Catholics need not be space buffs to want answers to these questions and others when they pick up a 48-page booklet by a Vatican astronomer.

If you’re losing sleep at night wondering how the church would deal with space aliens’ souls (maybe this would further exacerbate the priest shortage, but could it be a source for new vocations?), make sure you read both today’s story and our 2005 interview with Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno.

And if you’re still not satisfied, Brother Consolmagno’s booklet, “Intelligent Life in the Universe?” is still available online.