Pope Francis has praised the teaching of Latin as a means of helping young people reflect “on the inner and intimate essence of the human being”.
The Pope said the great Latin texts of the early Church could help steer young people away from the superficial obsession of the modern age.
Francis urged teachers of Latin to “know how to speak to the hearts of the young, know how to treasure the very rich heritage of the Latin tradition to educate them in the path of life, and accompany them along paths rich in hope and confidence”.
The message was heard at a meeting organised by the Pontifical Academies with the theme: “In interiore homine: Research paths in the Latin tradition.”
The Pope noted that the “theme of interiority, of the heart, of consciousness and self-awareness” was found “in every culture as well as in the different religious traditions.”
He said this type of reflection was especially urgent in the modern world, “often characterised by concern with appearance, superficiality, the division between heart and mind, interiority and exteriority, consciousness and behaviour”.
He warned that young people could be caught up in “labyrinths of superficiality and banality, of the external success that conceals an inner emptiness, of the hypocrisy that masks the split between appearances and the heart, between the beautiful and cared for body and the soul, empty and arid.”
The Pope praised the “unforgettable wisdom” of St Augustine in particular, quoting from his works “Of True Religion” and his Tractates on the Gospel of John.
One section of the Tractates reads: “Return to your heart; see there what, it may be, you can perceive of God, for in it is the image of God. In the inner man dwells Christ, in the inner man are you renewed after the image of God, in His own image recognise its Author.”
Moments of crisis, the Pope said, demand reflection “on the inner and intimate essence of the human being”.
Latin is still the official language of the Holy See and the Roman Rite of the Church. It became the official language of the Church in the 4th century, replacing Greek.
At the meeting Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, awarded this year’s Prize of the Pontifical Academies to two scholars – Dr Pierre Chambert-Protat and Dr Francesco Lubian. The prize is sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Academy for Latin, which was founded in 2012 by Benedict XVI to promote the study of the language.