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The Busted Halo Question Box
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This is the place where you can ask all of those burning questions that you wouldn't dare ask in person. We will post questions here (using your byline only with permission); we guarantee an answer to everyone.

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Our readers asked:

Do any religions use a single language to pray as the church once did with Latin?

Rev. Leo A. Walsh, S.T.D. Answers:

Yes, indeed, the two most notable in the United States are Islam and Judaism. In Islam the daily prayers and recitation of the Qur’an is most properly done in Arabic. This is because Muslims believe that the Qur’an was revealed to the prophet Mohammed in that language. However, sermons and instructions are almost always given in the local language. The practice is more varied the Jewish world, depending on what strand of Judaism one belongs to. According to halakha, the collective body of Jewish religious law, all individual prayers and virtually all communal prayers may be said in any language that the person praying understands. Nevertheless, most Ashkenazi Orthodox synagogues use the Ashkenazi dialect of Hebrew for almost all prayers. However, like above, sermons and instructions are in the local language. In other streams of Judaism there is considerable variety. Sephardic communities will use Ladino or even Portuguese for many prayers. Conservative synagogues tend to use the local language for most prayers. At most Reform synagogues the whole service is usually in the vernacular.

On side note, Latin is still the official language of the Church, although the use of the vernacular has been permitted since the Second Vatican Council. Often when you go to a pontifical liturgy in Rome or some other place where a great number of language groups will be present, the Eucharistic Prayer is almost always done in Latin. All official documents of the Vatican are also promulgated in Latin as recorded in the Acta Apostolica Sedis (“Actions of the Apostolic See”).

The Author : Rev. Leo A. Walsh, S.T.D.
The Rev. Leo A. Walsh, S.T.D., formerly the Interreligious Affairs specialist at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is now pastor of St. Benedict's Parish in Anchorage, Alaska. Photo Credit: Bob Roller, Catholic News Service (CNS).
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