Pope Francis has resurrected Latin for the masses and made it en vogue, with over 209,000 following his tweets in what is a dead language.
So popular are the papal tweets that the Pope now has more followers of his Latin account than his ones in Arabic, German and Polish. The previous Pope Benedict has taken the credit for having resurrected Latin for the masses before Pope Francis. However, the former faced a tough audience when he posted his first tweet. When he posted:
Followers were baffled. For those who are interested, it means in so many words the Lord asks individuals to work together, by praying constantly and to always remain humble as one walks with Him.
Pope Francis has not only taken on the mantle with some aplomb, he is now making headlines in the Twittersphere, a platform of social media usually the preserve of pop stars and actors. However, the Pope’s Latin account still has still some way to go to acquire even a fraction of the 4.68 million followers who read his Italian tweets. Close to 3.7 million follow his English account.
Remarkably, for someone who appears rather active on Twitter, the Pope is not a keen follower of other accounts, unless they are one of his nine personal ones. The polyglot manages to tweet in the aforementioned German, Polish, Arabic, Italian, English and Latin, along with Spanish, Portuguese and French. Nevertheless, Pope Francis follows nine more accounts than Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama who chooses to follow nobody. That is despite the fact he has recruited 8.4 million followers who read his English only tweets.
Latin is taught in very few schools around the world now – Catholic ones in the main – because other than deciphering old texts, the general consensus is that there is little use for it in the modern world. However, in the last year it has gained traction because of the Vatican. Not only has the Pope been tweeting in the language, an Italian journalist called Giovanna Chirri used it to secure what was one of the greatest scoops in modern times. In February last year, when German Pope Benedict announced he was to step down as head of the Catholic Church for health reasons, Chirri was the first – if not the only – journalist to have understood the statement. She subsequently informed non-Latin speakers that we were about to witness biggest change to religious leadership in the world.
Many linguists and historians have predicted a renaissance of the Latin language as the internet allows people of all persuasions to instantly translate what the Pope has tweeted. Latin is also readily available on the web for for any would-be students, meaning seeking out rare books in libraries is fast becoming a thing of the past.
It has been an interesting week for the Pope. First, he showed he is in touch with the modern world by selling his Harley-Davidson at auction for $284,000 to raise money for charity. For now, praise be to Pope Francis for he has resurrected Latin for the masses.
By Robert Shepherd