Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How knowing Latin helped one reporter get the scoop of a lifetime

"Qui res mundi vellet scire linguam Latinam cognosciat."

If you don't know what that means, then join all the reporters who missed one of the greatest journalistic scoops of the 21st century.

When Pope Benedict XVI recently abdicated the papacy, he did it in a speech that was supposed to be about the canonization of three saints. But all of a sudden, he began almost whispering in Latin.

Giovanna Chirri, the Vatican reporter for ANSA, the leading news wire service in Italy, was covering the regularly scheduled speech. She immediately realized what the Pope was saying.

She knew Latin.

She quickly called Vatican spokesman Frederico Lombardi to confirm what she thought she had heard: that Benedict was going to do something that no pope had done for 717 years: voluntarily step down from his office. But Lombardi could not be reached.

Chirri then reported to her editor at the ANSA News agency that the Pope had just announced his abdication. But the editor got cold feet, and a heated argument ensued between the reporter and her editor, the editor doubting her story, and Chirri insisting that her Latin was good enough to understand what the Pope had said.

At 11:46 a.m. GMT, ANSA sent out the alert to a surprised world. Chirri had scooped the rest of the press corp because she knew Latin.

Oh, and that Latin sentence above? It means, "He who wants to know what's happening in the world should know Latin."


Anonymous said...

Or perhaps, "He who wants to know what's happening in the Vatican should know Latin."

Men like St.Paul and Martin Luther knew that if the church was ever going to connect with the masses, it had to sacrifice certain esoteric traditions.

How will we ever achieve universal (i.e. "Catholic") religion if we don't even attempt to achieve universal language? How many barriers to understanding must one break through in order to simply know God?

Singring said...

I would look at it the other way round: If the Pope had been using English instead of a dead language and had hosted a proper press conference, it wouldn't have taken the freak chance of a reporter familiar with Latin to report on what is the most significant change in the Church hierarchy.

If I were member of an organization which decided to anounce a major development like this in a dead language, I would conclude that there is something seriously wrong with the communication policy of that organization.

Not Martin, though.

He's apparently of the opinion that, when one of the major figures in the world resigns by mumbling in a dead language during a seemingly inconsequential get-tegether, that's a sign of excellence. That's how you'll win new converts.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait for Johnny Paycheck's Latin version of Take This Job and Shove It.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous: So by suggesting that we should attempt to achieve a universal language, should I assume that you are advocating jumping on the failed Esperanto bandwagon?

Martin Cothran said...

Anonymous (the second one):

They could title it, "Tolle hanc curam et pone eam in clunes tuas." I should point out that the Latin here is more explicit than the English and that the literal translation would violate the rules of this blog.

So you see, Latin does have its advantages.

Unknown said...

I'm really happy for her

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Sumner said...

I would agree with SingRing, that if he did it the opposite way. Although one cannot change the past now.

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Unknown said...

Wow, I should really learn Latin. :o
Great post.
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Unknown said...
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