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Old Aug 8, '04, 7:57 am
guse guse is offline
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Join Date: July 2, 2004
Posts: 53
Religion: Catholic
Default What languages does the Pope speak?

Does anyone know how many languages the Pope speaks? When we see him offering Mass in Rome, which language is he speaking? What about when he is in a English speaking county? Hopefully someone here knows. Thanks.
So they said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always." Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will not hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst" John 6:34-35
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Old Aug 8, '04, 8:39 am
dfb1105 dfb1105 is offline
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Posts: 52
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Default Re: What languages does the Pope speak?

According to CNN it's 17.
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Old Aug 8, '04, 10:17 am
Digitonomy Digitonomy is offline
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Join Date: June 19, 2004
Posts: 7,973
Default Re: What languages does the Pope speak?

I have no facts to present, but some reasonable speculation. I doubt the pope is fluent in 17 languages cited above. However, fluency is not required to "speak" a language, if you don't plan on saying much, or interacting much. It doesn't take much study or practice to learn "How are you doing?", "It is a pleasure to be here," and "May God grant his blessing on Kazakhstan" and so forth for a number of languages. Having said that, as the "Bishop of Roam" the pope is probably a more accomplished polyglot than anyone reading this.

I'll divide my guesses into three categories:

Certain to speak, probably fluent in
  • Polish - Mother tongue.
  • Italian - Required for his diocese in Rome.
  • Latin - Nuff said.
  • French - As with most better educated people in Europe, probably learned this in school (also French frequently used as working language at the Vatican - e.g. Catechism first issued in French, later translated into English, Latin, etc).
  • English - Probably learned some in school, same as French.
  • Ukrainian - Very similar to Polish. If he had a Ukrainian neighbor, or heard it on the radio, he could have picked this up pretty easily.
  • Spanish - If he didn't know this before, he would have learned this upon becoming Pope, due to the importance of Latin America. Pretty easy to learn if you already know Italian, Latin, French.
  • Greek - Would have learned this at seminary, although how much modern Greek he knows is another question.
Probably speaks some
  • Hebrew - Would have learned this at seminary.
  • Lithuanian - Again, similar to Polish, so easy to pick up. Strongly Catholic country.
  • Portuguese - Not too tough if you already know Spanish. Important mostly because of Brazil, but also Mozambique, Congo, Macao.
  • Arabic - Probably tried to learn some because of the importance of relations with Muslims, trips to middle East, and Maronite, Chaldean, etc Catholics.
  • Russian - Strong influence in Poland during Cold War, and the pope has probably prepared for his unrealized dream of visiting Russia.
Probably learned at least a smattering, for travel
  • Tagolog - Philippines has one of largest populations of Catholics.
  • Vietnamese - The other Asian nation that's predominantly Catholic.
  • Hindi - Useful for any trip to India.
  • Swahili - One of the more important languages in east Africa.
  • Aramaic - Not just travel, but may have studied briefly in seminary. Also liturgical language for some eastern Catholics.
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Old Aug 8, '04, 11:42 am
Marie Marie is offline
Join Date: May 16, 2004
Posts: 8,368
Religion: Catholic
Default Re: What languages does the Pope speak?

He is a superb linguist, fluently speaking and can write fluently in 11 languages: Latin, Polish, Russian, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and English, Greek, and Ukrainian.

The Pope, also speaks some 62 other languages, including Aramaic, Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi, Maori and Swahili.
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Old Aug 8, '04, 11:47 am
MrS MrS is offline
Join Date: June 28, 2004
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Religion: Catholic, Latin (Roman) Rite
Default Re: What languages does the Pope speak?

Wow. I speak one. However, when my kids were much younger they apparently did not understand me. I may be their papa, but for many reasons I am no Pope.

Seriously though,
Pray for the Holy Father that the language of discipline falls strongly on the ears of our wayward bishops.


Last edited by MrS; Aug 8, '04 at 12:05 pm.
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Old Aug 8, '04, 11:59 am
Digitonomy Digitonomy is offline
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Posts: 7,973
Default Re: What languages does the Pope speak?

D'oh!! I forgot German in my list. The power went out while I was composing the first draft, so I reconstructed the one you see quickly. Anyway, he would have known German also from school, considering it's a hefty country neighboring Poland, the large number of ethnic Germans in Poland in his day, and the occupation during WWII.

Marie, what's your source? I'd like to see the list of those 62 other languages.
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Old Aug 8, '04, 11:09 pm
Digitonomy Digitonomy is offline
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Join Date: June 19, 2004
Posts: 7,973
Default Re: What languages does the Pope speak?

A little looking around shows that the pope delivered his Easter greetings in 62 different languages. So if Marie's list of 11 is accurate, I think John Paul must speak an additional 51.

Including....Esperanto. Who knew that the pope was a supporter of this one world language movement, which like "radical feminism", is often seen as a left-wing ideal whose day in the sun has long since past? And apparently Vatican Radio broadcasts in Esperanto. Craziness.
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