Why is Latin still used in the Church?

With Latin being to all practical intents and purposes a dead language, and especially now in the light of Vatican II, specifically the permission to use the vernacular, why does the formal language of the Roman Catholic Church remain Latin?

I would of thought because of the phyical location of the Vatican and that the majority of the Church’s bureauracy happens to be in and around Rome, wouldn’t Italianbe more approprate?

Pope John XXIII in *Veterum Sapientia * calls Latin the “Church’s living language”. A language he says “which had its origins in Latium, and later proved so admirable a means for the spreading of Christianity throughout the West.

And since in God’s special Providence this language united so many nations together under the authority of the Roman Empire – and that for so many centuries – it also became the rightful language of the Apostolic See. Preserved for posterity, it proved to be a bond of unity for the Christian peoples of Europe.” (6)

That Latin is a "dead language” is a good thing. It simply means that Latin words are constant; their meaning never changes. It’s a sign of unity. Pope John Paul II in *Dominicae Cenae * (10) says Latin is the “one language,” which in all the world was an expression of the unity of the Church and through its dignified character elicited a profound sense of the Eucharistic Mystery… The Roman Church has special obligations towards Latin, the splendid language of ancient Rome, and she must manifest them whenever the occasion presents itself.”

It’s also important to note that the Second Vatican Council never called for the elimination of Latin in the liturgy. What the the Second Vatican Council did say was that "the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.“ Sacrosanctum Concilium 36
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Answer continued below

As to why Latin remains the official language of the Church, Pope John XXIII in *Veterum Sapientia * gives the following reasons:

  1. It is worthy of being used in the exercise of her teaching authority

“…the Apostolic See has always been at pains to preserve Latin, deeming it worthy of being used in the exercise of her teaching authority “as the splendid vesture of her heavenly doctrine and sacred laws.”

  1. It does not favor any one nation

“Of its very nature Latin is most suitable for promoting every form of culture among peoples. It gives rise to no jealousies. It does not favor any one nation, but presents itself with equal impartiality to all and is equally acceptable to all.”

  1. It’s a noble language

“Nor must we overlook the characteristic nobility of Latin for mal structure. Its “concise, varied and harmonious style, full of majesty and dignity” makes for singular clarity and impressiveness of expression.”

  1. It is a maternal universal voice

“When, therefore, the Roman Pontiffs wish to instruct the Catholic world, or when the Congregations of the Roman Curia handle matters or draw up decrees which concern the whole body of the faithful, they invariably make use of Latin, for this is a maternal voice acceptable to countless nations.”

  1. It is immutable

“Furthermore, the Church’s language must be not only universal but also immutable. Modern languages are liable to change, and no single one of them is superior to the others in authority. Thus if the truths of the Catholic Church were entrusted to an unspecified number of them, the meaning of these truths, varied as they are, would not be manifested to everyone with sufficient clarity and precision. There would, moreover, be no language which could serve as a common and constant norm by which to gauge the exact meaning of other renderings.

But Latin is indeed such a language. It is set and unchanging. it has long since ceased to be affected by those alterations in the meaning of words which are the normal result of daily, popular use. Certain Latin words, it is true, acquired new meanings as Christian teaching developed and needed to be explained and defended, but these new meanings have long since become accepted and firmly established.”

  1. It is truly Catholic

“In addition, the Latin language “can be called truly catholic.” It has been consecrated through constant use by the Apostolic See, the mother and teacher of all Churches, and must be esteemed “a treasure … of incomparable worth.”. It is a general passport to the proper understanding of the Christian writers of antiquity and the documents of the Church’s teaching. It is also a most effective bond, binding the Church of today with that of the past and of the future in wonderful continuity.”

Click here for the full text.

The use of Latin is also an effective antidote for any corruption of doctrinal truth.

In Mediator Dei, Pope Pius XII says,

  1. The use of the Latin language, customary in a considerable portion of the Church, is a manifest and beautiful sign of unity, as well as an effective antidote for any corruption of doctrinal truth.
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