Vatican Radio has launched a weekly five-minute news bulletin – in Latin. Harnessing the resources of the Vatican’s Latin Letters Office – a department of the Secretariat of State where Church documents are written in or translated into Latin – the programme is described by Vatican Radio’s Editorial Director Andrea Tornielli as “a real, informative news bulletin”/ According to Tornielli, the programme was not conceived “with a nostalgic look to the past, but as a challenge for the future”.
The weekly bulletin is titled Hebdomada Papae, notitiae vaticanae latine redditae or The Pope’s week – Vatican news in Latin. There are very real challenges, however, in using a dead language to report on modern day life. According to a report in the UK Daily Telegraph, Vatican translators have had to come up with some ingenious ways of communicating contemporary concepts into Latin. A suicide bomber, for instance, is rendered as voluntarius suis interromptor while xenofobia is exterarum gentium odium. Latin equivalents of modern terms are often tongue-twisters, such as Certaminibus Mundialibus Sphaeromachiae for the football World Cup, or follis canistrīque ludus for basketball. Much of the Latin in use today has been invented by contemporary scholars and would not have been known to the Romans. There is a word, for instance, for popcorn – máizae grana tosta, or toasted maize grains.
Despite the fanfare for the new weekly programme that went to air on 8m June, Vatican Radio is not the only – nor the first – broadcaster to air programmes in Latin. Finland’s public broadcaster YLE has aired a weekly news bulletin in Latin for many years, under the title Nuntii Latini.