THE OFFICE OF THE LITURGICAL CELEBRATIONS
THE USE OF THE LATIN LANGUAGE
Undoubtedly, Latin is the language that has the most longevity in the Roman Liturgy: It has been in use for over sixteen centuries, that is to say, from the time when the official liturgical language of the Church went from Greek to Latin – a change completed under Pope Damasus (+384). The official liturgical books of the Roman Rite are still published in Latin today (editio typica).
The Code of Canon Law (canon 928) stipulates: “The eucharistic celebration is to be carried out in the Latin language or in another language provided that the liturgical texts have been legitimately approved.” Taking into consideration the present situation, this canon translates in a concise manner the teaching of the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council.
The well-known number 36 of Sacrosanctum Concilium established the following principle:
In this sense, the Code affirms first of all: “The eucharistic celebration is to be carried out in the Latin language.”
In the sections which follow, Sacrosanctum Concilium admits of the possibility of using also the vernacular languages:
On the basis of those subsequent sections, the Code adds: “or in another language provided that the liturgical texts have been legitimately approved.”
As can be seen, likewise according to present norms, the Latin language still holds primacy of place as that language which, based on principle, the Church prefers, even though she recognizes that the vernacular can be useful for the faithful. In the present concrete situation, liturgical celebrations in Latin have become rather rare. Hence, a motivation for using Latin is because in the Papal Liturgy (but not only in the Papal Liturgy), Latin should be safeguarded as a precious inheritance of the Western liturgical tradition. Not by chance did the Servant of God, John Paul II recall that:
In continuity with the Magisterium of his Predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, besides wishing that there would be a greater use of the traditional Latin language in liturgical celebrations, especially during international gatherings, wrote: