By Mattia Ruaro

The Pope will not be in charge anymore at the Vatican at the end of this month, after his shock resignation.

It may not sound like such a big thing.  But this is only the sixth time in the two thousand year history of the Catholic Church that a pope has resigned. Only five other Popes resigned before the natural end of their reign.

vatican flagThe first one was Clement I, who was exiled and therefore resigned.  Then Pontian, Benedict IX (who shares the name of the current Pope), Celestine V followed, and Gregory XII on 1415, was the last recorded example. The most famous case among them was probably Celestine V, who resigned after only 4 months (he was Pope from 29/08/1294 to 13/12/1294) because he could not stand the influence of King Charles I of Naples, a strong political figure of the time.

As is usually the case with everything related to the Vatican City and the Holy See, the communication of this exceptional event came in Latin, one of the official languages of the country.  The Vatican is the smallest independent state in the world, with 800 inhabitants and an area of 44 hectares; Italian is the official language of the “City” and Latin is the official language of its jurisdiction. The Declaratio was published last Monday, or, as it was written “Ex Aedibus Vaticanis, die 10 mensis februarii MMXIII “(From the Vatican See, 11th of February 2013).

The Vatican City is one of the few countries (and therefore, institutions) to still support nowadays the use of what it is called “contemporary Latin” as an actually spoken language. This makes Latin not a dead language, contrary to popular belief: as long as there are people using that language to communicate, it cannot be considered “dead”.  One could say that a more appropriate definition is that it is an “undead” language, as its use is merely official and it is unlikely that employees of the Vatican go around the country speaking in Latin among them.  However the official status that it still holds, prevents Latin to be forgotten.  This is especially true if we consider that there are in fact specific traces of the usage of Latin around the Vatican.

The most interesting example could be the presence of an ATM machine with instructions are all in Latin, a real-life example of ancient and modern worlds colliding!

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