Why Latin & not Greek

I cannot find the answer to this question. Why has the Catholic Church used Latin as their prime language if all the Apostles used Greek and Greek was the first language used for the Bible and perhaps the Liturgy itself. From what I have read Greek was the scholarly language and the Apostles used it for almost everything. Why did the church pick Latin as their official language and not Greek. And could one say that the Greek Orthodox Church has direct apostolic succession to the Apostles since they evangelized and set up their church there first?


Because the Roman Rite & Pope is based in Rome.

The “official language” of the Byzantine Rite is Greek (though they do have Old Slavic too)

If Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox never broke away from Rome, I’m pretty sure what you actually see is that each Church within the Catholic Church would have their own official language.


Because Greek fell out of use as an everyday language in the West. It became easier to do things in Latin.


Because due to historical circumstances most Catholics use the rite of Rome, whose language was Latin. Why it was/is beneficial is explained more here:


As for some of the various separated Eastern Churches having direct lineage to the Apostles, while some of the particular Churches that are now numbered as Eastern Orthodox Churches are of ancient origin, at various points in history they separated from the one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church we profess in the Creed. This Church as part of its divine constitution always retains one particular Church of apostolic origin in primacy, fixed like a rock (which is Rome, by virtue of Peter’s primacy among other things). The particular Church of Rome cannot separate from the one catholic Church we profess in the Creed.

1 Like

The language of the Church in Rome was Greek until the late fourth century. Peter probably did not speak Latin.


Right, which is why its important, I think, to distinguish between the Roman Church (the local particular Church in Rome under the presidency of the successor of St. Peter) and the Latin Church, which is actually a couple thousand particular churches that use the Roman Rite and fall under the direct patriarchal primacy of the Bishop of Rome…various components of the Latin Church can and have fallen out of communion. Personally, it irks me when the Latin Church as a whole is referred to as “the Roman Church” - though I see it all the time.


We had another thread asking the same question just two days ago. @Bithynian posted a very full explanation:


I always tought about that too. It’s a good counter argument against Latin purists.

In fact, if there is any language which has a Divine right to be in the Liturgy, that language is Hebrew.


It is nowadays hard to remember the awe and esteem that people once held for Rome and therefore for Latin.

1 Like

Latin was the language of the common people. By the time Nicea-Constantinople rolled around Greek wasn’t as widely spoken.


It was the adoption of the vernacular, letting the faithful understand the liturgy.

Which makes some of the strident modern demands for latin even more bizarre . . .


Interesting; I grew up with Latin in the Mass, and Latin taught in practically all Catholic schools and many public schools, because learning Latin was then a means of strengthening one’s English.

But awe and esteem? Never saw any whatsoever. It was the language of the clericalists, who were nearly the only people who could converse in it (that and a few wonky college professors); and other than sophomores in high school repeating a few usually unnecessary phrases (illegitimi non corrundum being one which still comes to mind), pretty much no one used Latin as a conversational language.

But the Epistles of Clement of Rome were written in Latin and so was the Shepherd of Hermas. As for St Peter, he lived in Rome long enough and had the Holy Spirit’s help.

No, they weren’t. They were written in Greek. Don’t know where you got the idea that tey were written in Latin.

Early Christian literature came mostly from Africa, not Rome. As did the first Pope who was a native speaker of Latin, Victor I, who was elected in 189. .

Latin really didn’t gain a foothold in Rome until the late fourth century, and even then, the great Latin writers were not from Rome. Augustine was an African, Ambrose came from Belgium, and Jerome from Illyria, which was about where Yugosavia used to be.


Ummm, in the East, they may use Syriac, Greek, Church Slavonic, or the local vernacular.

Those are limited to liturgical use. The official language of record of all of the Eastern Catholic particular churches is Latin.

1 Like

Before I offer this answer, let me make super-clear: this is a belief shared among some of the people in my church including myself, but it is NOT AT ALL official doctrine or revealed truth. That being said, you know how the Cross was supposed to be the ultimate symbol of Satan’s triumph by killing God in the most humiliating way possible? But instead, it turned out to be Christ’s triumph over death and evil. It’s the ultimate trophy, taking what was supposed to be the other side’s trophy and making it God’s own. In the same way, Latin was originally the language of the most powerful earthly force against the early church. It was the language of the oppressors, the persecutors. But ultimately it was the Roman Empire which fell and the Church that survived, and as a trophy took the language of the oppressors and made it its own. Pretty awesome when you think about it!


Well, I was thinking more of the 1st-5th centuries…

But since you mention it, when I was at school in the late 1970s, it was still the presumption that there had never been better poetry than Vergil, or a more august peace than the golden age of Rome. It was obvious why the US would want to have a Senate and why the buildings of the capitol should be in classical style; why Roman Law prevailed in Europe and why every government that prided itself would use an eagle as its symbol.

A truly dignified inscription was written in latin, so was a certificate or a dedication…

Encyclopedia Britannica states, for Saint Victor I, pope:

Under Victor, Latin replaced Greek as the official language of the Roman church, and Victor himself wrote in Latin.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.