in what must be one of the most unusual jobs ever, michigan monsignor daniel gallagher, translates pope francis’ spanish tweets into latin, for the more than 230,000 people who follow his twitter feed in that classic language. he is the only american among seven specialists in ‘the office of latin letters at the vatican secretary of state.’
gallagher attended the university of michigan, (my alma mater, where we did not cross paths), and studied the sciences, graduating with a microbiology degree. while here, he also took a few latin classes and considered going into medicine, but after graduation, he went in another direction completely and entered the seminary. this led him to rome, (‘all roads lead to rome?’), where he went to study latin and eventually began working in the vatican offices translating latin documents into english.
with the recent onset of the papal step into social media, his new job was created, and it’s clear he loves it. he averages about 4 papal tweets/translations a week and says, ‘it’s a language that transcends cultures and nations, and so many people, especially young people, still crave latin, because it is so much fun. the popularity of the pope’s latin twitter account shows that latin is far from dead.’ (now, how many people can say that?)
gallagher says the learning curve is quite long, with no turnover, and therefore expects it to be a lifelong thing, though he serves at the will of the pope. pope francis stops by his office and invites him to mass occasionally, and he finds him to be quite humble and pleasant.
the pope now has almost 12 million twitter followers.
his latin twitter handle is: @Pontifex_In
all of this has me wondering. i wonder if his mother is disappointed that he didn’t become a doctor? i wonder if he has any connections, and can help our UM wolverines pull off a big win in march madness? i wonder how he sees latin as ‘fun’?’ why are a quarter of a million people choosing to read twitter in latin?’ as a former childhood catholic, am i going to be hit by lightning for wondering these things? just some of the deep questions i now have. and if i spoke latin, could i tweet him to ask for answers?.
Quidquid latine dictum, altum videtur.
Translation: “Whatever is said in Latin seems profound.”
credits: detroitfreepress.com, npr.org,
latin quote credit: Strauss, Emanuel (1994). Dictionary of European proverbs Routledge. p. 965. ISBN 0415096243.
title/faux latin translation credit: me