The latest reports from the Vatican have announced the establishment of a Pontifical Academy for Latin, designed to encourage and spread the learning of Latin around the world. Latin has long been looked at as a ‘dead language’ with no practical, everyday use, and as a result it’s teaching in schools has fallen out of favour. The latest initiative from the Pope attempts to highlight the advantages learning Latin can still have for students. The Pope’s statement highlighted the importance of an understanding of Latin for many fields of study, especially for students looking to pursue ecclesiastical studies at a high level. The Pope also mentioned making use of ‘modern means of communications’ for new Latin learning programs, indicating that the so-called ‘dead language’ is about to be taught in a very 21st Century format.
However, the primary goal of the program is to cultivate Latin as a means to driving a resurgence in the Catholic Church. The Pope is concerned that the turning away from Latin study that has occurred over the last few decades is at the core of the Church’s problems, and addressing that change will be central to ensuring the Church’s future strength around the globe. But the Catholic Church may have a hard time succeeding in its efforts to resurrect the Latin language. Church scandals and loss of faith among many Catholics are noted as obstacles to the campaign’s success.
In Australia, an increase in Latin students at the University of Western Australia has also been observed. While many students take Latin courses out of pure interest, some like to highlight the practical advantages they see in studying the language – it’s particularly helpful for science students, who are better able to grasp Latin-based scientific names as a result. Latin also opens many doors into scholarly activities that would otherwise be closed off. Not only is Latin useful for science students, it also provides insights into the structure and development of English and other European languages – which some Australian students see as a big advantage, as they plan to travel through Europe after completing their studies.