Are priests required to learn Latin?

I am currently watching an adoration online and the priest said some parts in Latin. It makes me wonder if all priests need to learn Latin?


I know my seminary requires that we take a year of Greek and a year of Latin. So probably enough to know the grammar and limited vocabulary, but by no means are we fluent.

Can you give the address of the adoration? Thanks.


Thank you, brain.

slewi, It was on ewtn’s channel. If you go to, and under multimedia, click on Live TV. Currently, it has children show on though.

I think it depends on the diocese and/or the seminary. I know the diocese of Peoria requires Latin (I visited the minor seminary they use), while the diocese of Joliet does not (A priest of that diocese told me he didn’t have to learn it).

For some canonical definition of “need”, yes. To what extent it is enforced? Who knows.

Can. 249 The Charter of Priestly Formation is to provide that the students are not only taught their native language accurately, but are also well versed in latin, and have a suitable knowledge of other languages which would appear to be necessary or useful for their formation or for the exercise of their pastoral ministry.


I spoke with an old priest once about his Latin education. He was educated just before Vat. II. He had 8 years of latin (starting in HS.) and all of his theology education was actually in Latin. He hadn’t used it in the last 30 years or so and he didn’t really know it much anymore.

1 year of latin is practically nothing. Especially if a person doesn’t use it much after that year of school. It is barely enough for a person to learn to pronounce the words. Give em a dictionary and a couple hours and they could tell you what a prayer says, but that is vastly different than what it used to be like. Priests used to pray in Latin and actually have some idea what they were saying. I would like to see those days return but if all we get is maybe 1 year of Latin we might as well give up the fight.

My pastor and associate do not know Latin. I was talking to the retired priest who is in residence at my parish. He still knows Latin. When we were discussing the possible motu proprio to allow any priest to say a TLM, he said that most of the young priests in my diocese would not be able to say one anyway because they never learned Latin in the seminary.

I wonder how many priests have said the mass in Latin over the years without really fully understanding the language?

I suspect a great many have. While it requires many years of study to reach that level of understanding, I suspect a person could learn all the prayers of the mass (and their meanings and translations) in relatively short order.

Actually some think that B16s election was in part due to the fact that he is one of the few latinists in the college of cardinals of any prominence. I have been told he can both speak and write in Latin quite fluently, which apparently only a few of the other Cardinals can do these days.

Important to keep in mind that nobody on the planet is “fluent” in Latin. Nobody has been “fluent” in Latin for many centuries, actually.

There are Latin words whose meaning is debated and uncertain to scholars because knowledge of their precise meaning was lost centuries ago.

if a priest really wants to do a latin mass, he just has to learn how to pronounce it. many priests in the middle ages had horrible knowledge of latin, but they could read it off the page.

It would seem like a good idea for the clergy to speak the official language of the Roman Church. Perhaps there would be less likelihood of error on official documents.

Not only will you find many fluent Latin speakers at the Vatican among the non-clerical folk, many traditionally trained priests as well as many classical scholars can speak fluently in Latin. The current and last Popes were both fluent in Latin as well. Certainly the number of folks who can speak with a mastery and fluency of the language is small these days, but they are not extinct.

I think there’s a difference between being able to easily speak, write, and understand a language in all general and many technical respects (which is what I think is asserted in claiming fluency for modern speakers) and on the other hand having full knowledge of the all shades of meaning for every word ever used in a language. If that actually is the technical definition of fluency it seems a highly unuseful one. Your fluency in English is not obliterated by your needing help to understand one sentence in Shakespeare, and neither should a Latinist’s fluency be obliterated by an inability to understand words that ceased to be live terms centuries ago.

When I was in seminary, this too was the requirement: 1 year Greek, 1 year Latin. Some guys decided to continue to study Latin as electives throughout their time in seminary in order to be more proficient. Still, those were rare (there is so much to study in seminary as it is… still, it would be great if Latin was studied more).

It really depends on the seminary he attends. Some require it others do not. The requirement to study and have some knowledge of Latin as a requisite of being a Priest was dropped many many years ago.

Just as an update, the university my seminary uses for classes has just approved a new major concentration for us (up to now there has been no such “semianry” degree available). It is a hybrid of Catholic Studies and Philosophy and is modeled after the requirements of the Vatican document: Program of Priestly Formation (PPF) and requires that we take at least a year of latin and highly suggests we learn biblical greek too.

No disrespect intended but listening to some of the double-speak coming from some of the bishops, it wouldn’t really matter in which language they speak to their flocks.

But we’re not really asking to change the world. Just keep the canonized part in Latin per Vatican II. But would it violate Vatican II if the entire Mass were still in Latin? And what’s so difficult in learning enough Latin to understand the Mass anyway? Here is a nice interlinear translation of the Mass:


I assure you, I know what I’m talking about on the Latin fluency issue.

John Paul and Benedict are not fluent in Latin. That’s no criticism of either man. Nobody is fluent.

First off, what is Latin? Actually several languages. Read Plautus. Then Cicero. Then Tacitus. Same language? Well…yes and no.

Further, the spoken Latin of Cicero’s time was NOT the literary language that has survived. The spoken language has left vestiges in certain literary genres (comedy, satire, inscriptions)…but we don’t even know for certain the spelling of certain words at certain periods.

Again, as someone with a doctorate in classics, I assure you, nobody is FLUENT in Latin. Even composition/oral classes learn certain set phrases that can be cited in some classical author or other (usually Cicero).

If you want to acquire FACILITY in speaking…fine. Fluency…no. Spoken and written Latin will always remain somewhat artificial, to greater or lesser degrees depending on the relative complexity of the idea being expressed.

Remember…even the “fluent” folks who translated the Psalter in 1945 used a word…marium, genitive plural of mare…that occurs NOWHERE in surviving Latin…they posited its existence. We don’t know how the Romans said “of the seas” using mare. Maybe they didn’t use that word in the gen. pl.

Artificiality…one of numerous examples that could be cited.

Would this explain a former Pope blessing a “helicopterum”?.

I recall priests who did not share a common modern language conversing, and seemingly understanding each other, in Latin.

But then, my kids think I was a contemporary of T-Rex.:slight_smile:

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