Pope Francis practicing English but speaks from the heart
VATICAN CITY—In what language should the Vicar of Christ speak when he comes again to Asia?
Why, in English, of course, said Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J.
But it will help if the Vicar of Christ polishes his English. And if that fails, then he can speak from the heart.
After all, the theme of his visit is “mercy and compassion,” a message better delivered from the heart than from the Anglo-Saxon tongue.
Lombardi explained that the Pope delivered his speeches in English when he was in South Korea last August, his first Asian visit, and he would do likewise when he goes to Sri Lanka and the Philippines from Jan. 15 to 19.
He will reportedly deliver a total of 11 speeches.
If we must add, Pope Paul VI delivered his 1970 Philippine addresses in English and so did Saint Pope John Paul II in 1981 and 1995.
But Paul VI was a diplomat and John Paul II was a polyglot.
Even the Italian Jesuit spokesman of His Holiness is not fluent in English and his Italian-Argentinian boss is not exactly at home in it, the way he’s comfortable with Italian and Spanish.
The Pope’s English after all cannot compare with, say, the King’s English.
Help from Tagle
Pressing the issue, journalists asked Lombardi—what if people would ask questions of the Holy Father in the local languages?
Lombardi said the Pope would ask Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle of Manila and Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo to interpret for him.
Of course, Tagle can interpret for His Holiness any question in Tagalog or Filipino since Tagle is a native of Cavite province. But what if the questions were in Waray or any Visayan language? The Pope will be going to Tacloban, Leyte province, on Jan. 17.
Perhaps the Archbishop of Palo, Leyte, could interpret for the Pope. The prelate’s rather nondescript name? John Du.
But Lombardi insisted Pope Francis would deliver all his addresses in the two apostolic visits in English even if he had failed to deliver it with clarity during his Korean tour owing to his thick Latin (that is, Italian- and Spanish-marred) brogue.
“All the homilies and discourses (during the Asian trip) will be in English,” Lombardi said in Italian. “In fact, the Holy Father is practicing and practicing!”
Helping the Pope practice his English, Lombardi said, is a “Vatican official.”
The spokesman did not say who the official is but it surely cannot be American Cardinal Raymond Burke, who has been removed from his important post in the Apostolic Signature without any official explanation.
In October last year, during the Synod on the Family, a meeting of bishops from around the world, Burke criticized “reforms” that would relax canon rules against divorced Catholics. He likewise opposed a more welcoming Church stand on homosexuality.
His new assignment ensures he would no longer play a high-profile role in future bishops’ meetings on family: He has been appointed chaplain of the ancient Sovereign Order of Malta, an ancient religious order of lay people with diplomatic observer status in the United Nations.
Of course, nothing bars the Pope from asking Burke to help him practice his English.
In view of the Order of Malta’s UN status, it is presumed its members are fluent in English and other languages. So Burke could still make himself useful by teaching the Pope how to better pronounce such English tongue twisters as, for example, LGBTQI (believe it or not, “lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-queer-intersexual!”)
Of course, it’s remote that Vatican ghostwriters would allow the Pope to fall for the ideological intramurals of the gay rights movement.
As always, papal addresses are written along the classic requirements of elegance of language and clarity of thought, without any beffudlement of audience or, worse, to borrow somewhat from T.S. Eliot, transmogrification of speech.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.