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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Presenting the new "Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church," Pope Benedict XVI urged Catholics around the world to memorize the most common Catholic prayers in Latin.My initial reaction? Gawd, how reactionary! But after a little thought I'm not sure it's a bad idea. Latin is, after all, the lingua franca of catholicism, if you will. Don't get me wrong; I love the mother tongue, and years of various choirs and 2 years of high school Latin only served to reinforce my feelings. I'm not sure it would mean the same to my kids, though, and certainly not my (non-papist) wife. The thing is, without the whole liturgy existing in Latin in any meaningful way, these few prayers are more like fossils in a museum, lifeless and with meaning only for the experts. And how often is the average catholic kid from any nation going to be involved in a multinational catholic "do" and be able to show off his/her all-but-forgotten mumbled Paternosher?
Learning the prayers in Latin as well as in one's own language "will help Christian faithful of different languages pray together, especially when they gather for special circumstances," the pope said June 28 as he distributed the Italian version of the compendium, which included an appendix with the Latin texts of many traditional prayers, including the Sign of the Cross, the Gloria, the Hail Mary and Come, Holy Spirit.