Ecclesiastical Latin

variety of Latin that is used for liturgical purposes

The term Ecclesiastical Latin (sometimes called Church Latin or Italian Latin) is the Latin that is used in documents of the Roman Catholic Church and in its Latin liturgies. It is not a distinct language but a form of Latin used for ecclesiastical purposes because it can be used also for commercial or other purposes.

Ecclesiastical Latin
Church Latin, Liturgical Latin
Native toNever spoken as a native language; other uses vary widely by period and location
ExtinctStill used for many purposes, mostly as a liturgical language of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, as well as in the Anglican Churches, Lutheran Churches, and Methodist Churches. Also used in the Western Orthodox Rite of the Eastern Orthodox Church.[1]
Official status
Official language in
Holy See
Language codes
ISO 639-3
The spread of Christianity to AD 600 — the dark pockets represent initial enclaves
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The Church issued the dogmatic definitions of the first seven General Councils in Greek, and even in Rome, Greek remained at first the language of the liturgy and the language in which the first popes wrote. The Holy See is not obliged to use Latin as its official language, and in theory, it could change its practice.

However, Latin has the advantage that the meaning of its words is less likely to change radically over the centuries. That helps to ensure theological precision and orthodoxy. Accordingly, recent Popes have reaffirmed the importance of Latin for the Church, particularly for those in ecclesiastical studies.


Other websites



  1. "On the Western Rite Liturgy | Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese". Retrieved 2017-12-30.
  • The New Missal Latin by Edmund J. Baumeister, S.M., Ph.D. Published by St. Mary's Publishing Company, P.O. Box 134, St. Mary's, KS 66536-0134, USA
  • A Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin by John F. Collins, (Catholic University of America Press, 1985) ISBN 0-8132-0667-7. A learner's first textbook, comparable in style, layout, and coverage to Wheelock's Latin, but with text selections from the liturgy and the Vulgate. It also contains translation and composition exercises.