Book Review: "With Latin in the Service of the Popes" The Memoirs of Antonio Cardinal Bacci (1885-1971)

Just in time for Christmas!  This is one of the most delightful little books I have had the pleasure to read - the memoirs of Antonio Cardinal Bacci, recently published by Arouca Press.   This gem is a title that should be on every Catholic bookshelf.  With Latin in the Service of the Popes the Memoirs of Antonio Cardinal Bacci (1885-1971) is a little-known treasure that offers an extremely important glimpse into the role of Latin in the life of the Church.  Cardinal Bacci was a renowned papal latinist who offers keen insight into the reality of Latin as the linguistic bond of the Roman Church, both in liturgy (and music), but also as the administrative language of the universal Church.  I would say Cardinal Bacci's memoirs are a must read for anyone with an interest in the use of Latin and I highly recommend readers get their copy here before the Christmas rush (while also purchasing a copy for your pastor).  I would like to personally thank Mr. Alex Barbas, founder of Arouca Press, for reprinting this classic and for reaching out to us and graciously sending us copies for review.  

The original title was Con il Latino a Servizio di Quattro Papi, published in 1964 by Editrice Studium in Rome.  The English translation is by Dr. Anthony Lo Bello, who has done a great service in bringing this book to English-speaking readers as far back as 1991.  Thank you, Dr. Lo Bello!  I was privileged to get my first copy in 1993 through the Latin Liturgy Association and I have since read it many times and found great inspiration and wish to share this good news with others.  The book consists of two parts: the first includes reminiscences of Bacci's time as chief latinist and the second an impassioned defense of Latin in Catholic life, worship and education.    

Cardinal Bacci was a Tuscan who was born and grew up near Florence.  His entire adult life was one of service to the Latin language.  As a Latin expert from a young age, he was brought to work in the Vatican Secretariat of State in 1922.  In 1931 he was appointed the Secretary of Briefs to Princes and of Latin Letters, the position of chief Latinist of the Popes.  Bacci held this position for thirty-one years, working closely with popes and getting to know them rather closely.  The memoirs include various amusing anecdotes and stories of these renowned pontiffs: Pius XI, Pius XII and John XXIII.  In 1960 Bacci was created Cardinal.  Today Bacci is best remembered for his immensely popular Italian-Latin Dictionary that went through several editions (the title was: Lexicon Eorum Vocabulorum Quae Difficilius Latine Redduntur).   The dictionary includes modern words that were put into Latin such as airplane, chewing gum and gelato.  Not to mention, Bacci is also remembered as being one of the signatories of the famous Ottaviani Intervention, written in 1969.  In short, Bacci was one of the good guys.  Hopefully this book will help inspire a new generation who will follow in his footsteps in studying Latin, neglected as it is today, and living Latin in the life of the Church and her worship.  Get your copy today!   

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