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Pope Benedict XVI tweets -- in Latin

January 20, 2013|By Tom Kington
  • Pope Benedict XVI issued his first tweet in Latin on Sunday. Here he is pictured tweeting in other languages in December.
Pope Benedict XVI issued his first tweet in Latin on Sunday. Here he is pictured… (Associated Press )

ROME -- Pope Benedict XVI sent his first tweet in Latin on Sunday, backed by experts who argue that the dead language is ideal for the 21st-century medium of Twitter.

In his debut Latin tweet, the pontiff said God asked believers to "orare semper, iustitiam factitare, amare probitatem, humiles Secum ambulare," which translates to "pray constantly, do justice, love goodness and walk humbly with Him," a passage from the Book of Micah.

According to Benedict's welcome message on his Latin Twitter account at @Pontifex_ln, "Twitter" in Latin is "Pagina publica breviloquentis," or "Concise, public page."

The account had attracted more than 5,000 followers by Sunday afternoon, in addition to the 2.5 million followers of the Twitter accounts Benedict launched in eight other languages, including English, Spanish and French, in December.

The Latin account will feature the same messages being sent in the other languages.

The Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano threw its weight behind the initiative last week, with Manlio Simonetti, a professor of Christian history, telling the paper that Latin was well-suited to Twitter.

"Latin adapts very well to the brevity demanded by new social networks, even better than English," he said.

Although it was once the universal language of academics and priests, the use of Latin has waned, even within the walls of the Vatican, despite ATMs at the Holy See that still issue instructions in the language.

A diehard fan of Latin, Benedict was behind the creation of the Vatican's Latin Studies Academy in November.

Scholars have been struggling to keep the language moving with the times, coming up with phrases like "inscriptio cursus electronici," or "written electronic mail," for e-mail.

An updated Latin dictionary widely consulted at the Vatican also translates "goal" (as in a soccer net) as "retis violation"; "hot pants" as "brevissimae bracae femineae"; and "parachute" as "umbrella descensoria."

Father Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said Sunday that the Latin translation for Twitter, "Pagina publica breviloquentis," had been dreamed up by a small team of Latin scholars working at the Vatican’s secretariate of state.

"You need to know the language and have a bit of fantasy to do this," he said.

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