Our recent posts about Pope St John XXIII’s Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia (part 1part 2part 3), which was promulgated 60 years ago today, were not only intended to commemorate it on its anniversary. We have also been looking forward to this important announcement about what our institute is doing to fulfill what the Constitution says, and indeed orders, about the promotion of Latin studies in the Church today.

In November of last year, we proposed to the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education a new accredited degree program, the Diploma Latinitatis Ecclesiasticae (Diploma in Ecclesiastical Latin). This proposal was made in partnership with the Pontifical Institute for Higher Latinity (PIAL), a faculty of the Salesian University in Rome, which shares our commitment to supporting the study of Latin. This three-year program is designed to give students the necessary tools to become thoroughly familiar with the “wisdom of the ancients” contained in both the ecclesiastical and secular literature of the Latin language. We are very pleased to announce that on January 25th of this year, the program received the Congregation’s official approval. 

Our President and Co-Founder, Dr Eric Hewett, comments: “This new diploma program opens up a clear and practical path to mastery of the Latin of the Church, and brings St John XXIII’s vision to life in our own day. We are especially thrilled to be able to make this announcement on the 60th anniversary of his Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia, for which the Institute is named.”

The DLE program is divided into two levels called “milestones.” In the first, after learning the fundamentals of Latin from the popular Familia Romana series, students will take three courses in the classical authors, both in poetry and prose, and the basic texts of ecclesiastical Latin such as the Catechism and the Order of Mass. At the completion of this first milestone, the student will receive a certificate of completion from VSI.

The second milestone will focus on various forms of Ecclesiastical Latin, with specialized courses in a wide variety of topics such as the Bible, the Church Fathers, the Catholic philosophical and theological tradition, liturgy, and canon law. This part of the program will be completed with a special Summer Intensive Capstone Course, to be taken either in Rome or remotely, wherein students will work directly with the PIAL. At the conclusion, students will submit a thesis to the PIAL in Latin on a topic related to the DLE curriculum.

Following the inspiration of Fr Reginald Foster, with whom many members of VSI studied, our preferred mode of teaching will be to treat Latin as a living language, actively spoken by both teachers and students in class. 

Since we recognize that the duties of many clergy and religious may make it difficult for them to dedicate themselves to the program on a full-time basis, students will have the option to fulfill the course requirements in non-consecutive semesters or to take on a reduced course load per semester.

The program’s first semester will be offered in the autumn of this year; VSI looks forward to fulfilling the mission entrusted to it by the Church, in keeping with Pope St John XXIII’s vision. This happy anniversary is made even happier by the crossing of this important milestone for our Institute.

(Pictures below: students at one of VSI’s Latin immersion workshops.)