Utile est diurnariis Latinam discere

The Huffington Post | AFP

ANSA journalist Giovanna Chirri was able to break the news of the pope's resignation because she understood Latin, writes Giacomo Talignani. "I knew the importance of the news," Chirri said:

I tried to contact the agency, to get the information verified, even though I didn’t doubt my Latin, then they took care of breaking the news. That's how I communicated the information.

French reporter Charles De Pechpeyrou told Talignani he and another reporter had trouble understanding a few words:

The difficult part was “understanding the Latin," he said. "At a certain point, for example, I caught the word 'incapability' in the pope's speech. I turned around and spoke with my Mexican colleague. We noticed that Pope Benedict had a sad look on his face, not his usual look. Something wasn't right. Then, when cardinal Sodano mentioned the 'sadness,' we finally understood. Then Father Lombardi confirmed his resignation over the phone."

Chirri didn't get a reply from Lombardi when she called to verify, AFP reports: "In a heated debate with her editor, the journalist insisted her Latin knowledge was sound and they could alert the news."

New York Times Rome bureau chief Rachel Donadio was among those feting Chirri on Twitter.


Back in the States, Slate republished a Christopher Hitchens essay about Benedict XVI that it translated into Latin. No classics scholar on staff assisted with the feat, Slate Editor David Plotz told Poynter in an email; Slate used Google Translate. "It may not be up to the standards of the Vatican," Plotz writes.

Previously: Pope Benedict XVI resigns: What you need to know

Thanks to Justine Wolfenden, a Fellow in Classics at Durham University, for a better Latin headline. It means: "It is useful for journalists to learn Latin"

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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