Jorge Mario Bergoglio was named Pope Francis on March 13, 2013, when he took over from Pope Benedict XVI after the latter’s resignation and service of eight years.
Many know Pope Francis to be humble. He is a committed environmental/political diplomat, attentive and supportive to the marginalized and impoverished globally. His mastery of many languages has put the pope in a good place to reach masses of people who would do well with his message; he also has a reputable mastery of cultural nuances.
So, what language does the pope speak? Italian and Spanish would be his most preferred, but this article looks into more.
Pope Benedict XVI and John Paul II
Most congregants and of the general public found Pope Benedict’s fluency in a good number of languages as fascinating—it enabled him a wider reach and expanded his knowledge of people around the world. The Bavarian pope is fluent in German, his native tongue besides English, French, Italian, and Spanish. His Portuguese is good, and he also speaks Latin.
Before Pope Benedict XVI was John Paul II, one of the church’s greatest—he served between 1978 and his death in 2005, holding a whopping record of 12 languages. Not many people can speak as many languages, considering the time and dedication it takes to master your way around a foreign tongue.
John Paul’s Polish was native since he hailed from Poland. He could also speak English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and German. His written Latin was good, as well as Biblical Hebrew. He was also known to be fluent in Russian, Japanese, Ukrainian, Tagalog, and Slovak.
The Pope’s Multilingualism
With the former popes’ records of multilingualism in mind, you may not help but wonder how many languages does Pope Francis speak. It would help to understand his background and the interactions that have led him to various languages worldwide; therefore, you will have a good understanding of his mastery.
Pope Francis is Argentinian. His parents and grandparents were Italian emigrants and taught him their native tongue, which he speaks fluently. The pope is also well-versed in Spanish, French, and Portuguese. He spent his early years in Germany but couldn’t find his way around the tongue as well as he did many others.
Besides what he considers to be “poor” German, the pope also seems to have a hard time with English. Considering his upbringing, learning English would be any other uphill battle through time and dedication.
In 1980, he spent about three months in Dublin, Ireland. He attempted to get a better grasp of the language’s ins and outs. However, Pope Francis found the many phonetics in English challenging.
Therefore, in his public speeches and masses, you may have noticed the pope’s rare use of English—not until a Mass in Soul, about a year after election. Time provides opportunities, and Pope Francis makes use of everyone he gets; he continues to improve his speech in, among the other languages he finds challenging, English.
Another important interaction to the pope’s early life was with Bishop Stepan Chmil, his Ukrainian mentor. Due to the time they spent together, Pope Francis learned to speak the bishop’s native language, Ukrainian.
How Many Languages Does the Pope Speak?
Like his predecessors, Pope Francis acquired mastery in Latin, Biblical Hebrew, and Biblical Greek—the essentials of biblical studies. Therefore, to answer: how many languages does the pope speak? He does Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, English, Ukrainian, and the biblical dialects, estimating eight languages.
While multilingualism puts the pope in a good place with congregants or believers and the people he interacts with, he appreciates that he cannot speak all the languages that people do. Therefore, he would not favor a particular language over others during masses.
The pope’s speeches are simpler and smoother to read in a preferred language. On the other hand, the Vatican’s responsibility to share the pope’s message in various translated languages remains paramount to foreign communications.
The Pope’s Day-to-Day
With all this in mind, you may still wonder, on his day-to-day, what language does Pope Francis speak? He wouldn’t use all eight in every interaction; furthermore, some of the languages that Pope Francis is fluent in may need refreshing before he can speak them confidently.
Since the pope grew up around the Italian tongue, he finds the language most preferable—you may have seen him in masses or making speeches in it. Perhaps it is due to their similarities or other reasons that Pope Francis feels as comfortable speaking Spanish.
Depending on where he will be, he may have to switch to any of the Biblical dialects: Latin for some texts, or Biblical Hebrew, as well as Biblical Greek.
Pope Francis is simple and, as aforementioned, humble. He has a good understanding of different cultures and languages around the world. He debunks the idea of placing plenty of importance on mastery in many tongues by speaking more of what he feels confident with and learning more about what he doesn’t.
The pope opts to translate a message in various languages for a wider reach and understanding. Therefore, he is transformative in finding a way through the hindrances to communication.
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Pope Francis speaks to the world when he speaks in Italian or Spanish or reads a Biblical text in Hebrew/Greek. While we may not all understand the same languages, translations have made communication much easier and more possible.