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LANGUAGES, ECCLESIASTICAL

The languages used in the Church's liturgy and in her official teaching. These are two distinct meanings of an ecclesiastical language. In the liturgy there is a further distinction between the Roman Rite and other rites in communion with the Holy See. In the Roman Rite the liturgical language up to the fourth century was mainly Greek. Latin gradually took its place. And this was generally universal until the Second Vatican Council, which opened up the liturgy to the vernacular. On the doctrinal side, the Roman Rite also used Greek in the first three centuries and gradually adopted Latin. The original language of the first seven ecumenical councils, however, was Greek because all the early councils (to A.D. 787) were held in the East. Among the Eastern Christians in communion with Rome the liturgical language was and remains mainly Greek. But other languages have been used from the beginning, e.g., Coptic. The same for doctrine. Some ancient manuscripts of the Bible, including the New Testament, were in Syriac, Armenian, Coptic, and Georgian. Doctrinal statements, except those directly emanating from the Holy See, have also regularly been either in Greek or in the official language of the respective rite.

All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

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