February 14, 2013 by History in a Hurry
How knowing Latin helped one reporter to get the scoop of the century
by Memoria Press
“Qui res mundi vellet scire linguam Latinam cognosciat.” If you don’t know what that means, then join all the reporters who missed one of the greatest journalistic scoops of the 21st century.
When Pope Benedict XVI recently abdicated the papacy, he did it in a speech that was supposed to be about the canonization of three saints. But all of a sudden, he began almost whispering in Latin. Giovanna Chirri, the Vatican reporter for ANSA, the leading news wire service in Italy, was covering the regularly scheduled speech. She immediately realized what the Pope was saying. She knew Latin. She quickly called Vatican spokesman Frederico Lombardi to confirm what she thought she had heard: that Benedict was going to do something that no pope had done for 717 years: voluntarily step down from his office. But Lombardi could not be reached.
Chirri then reported to her editor at the ANSA News agency that the Pope had just announced his abdication. But the editor got cold feet, and a heated argument ensued between the reporter and her editor, the editor doubting her story, and Chirri insisting that her Latin was good enough to understand what the Pope had said. At 11:46 a.m. GMT, ANSA sent out the alert to a surprised world. Chirri had scooped the rest of the press corp because she knew Latin.
Oh, and that Latin sentence above? It means, “He who wants to know what’s happening in the world should know Latin.”