According to Monsignor Josef Grabmaier, a parish priest in Munich, "Esperanto is the best gift the Catholic Church could give to the world".203 At first glance, this seems to be an eccentric opinion, since there are certainly a great many problems in the world, with language by no means the most serious.
The Pope, bishops and priests frequently direct suggestions, requests and instructions to the faithful - and sometimes also to unbelievers - which deserve serious respect. It is right and proper that they should encourage people to open their hearts to Christ, to love God and their neighbour.
Esperanto cannot be placed on the same level; it is simply a means to a higher purpose. Nevertheless, encouragement to learn Esperanto can have a particular value because it is not simply a repetition of what has been heard before. The proposal to learn Esperanto is not only something concrete, but for most people an entirely new idea.
We have already tried to show that it could pave the way to understanding and peace. The Christian Churches often endeavour to mediate between enemies. During the war in Kosovo in 1999 Pope John Paul II made repeated efforts, both by diplomacy and in his public speeches, to persuade both sides to embrace peace.204 However, the war was ended by force.
Indeed, we know very well that not every gift offered by the Church is appreciated. If the Catholic Church should decide to take steps in favour of Esperanto, we can take it for granted that this too will meet with some resistance. Still, there is a fair chance that if the Catholic Church accepted Esperanto the world would follow its example. After all, it would not be nearly so difficult as many other actions that the Church advocates. Perhaps we can, then, accept the view of Pastor Grabmaier.
A great many people fail to speak Esperanto simply because they have no idea that it is alive and well; they may never have heard of it. Others would like to learn, but cannot find a class anywhere near them - even in cities where there are people who would be able to teach it, neither language schools nor Esperanto groups offer courses because there is not sufficient demand. All this would change if some favourable event would awaken attention, something to which Esperantists have long looked forward. They continue to hope that the EU will examine the language seriously, or that the World Esperanto Association will win a Nobel Prize, or that some famous politician will make a decisive move.
The decision of the Catholic Church to accept Esperanto as the New Latin would be just such an event. It would not be necessary, and probably not possible, to make use of Esperanto right away in Episcopal Synods or other meetings, but to decide on this as a future goal would be a most valuable step. Even if the Pope, bishops or Church institutions were to publicly encourage Christians to learn the language, this would greatly support Esperanto in the struggle to become better known and acceptable.
Each user of new inventions, such as the fax machine and the Internet, increases their value. The same is and will be true of Esperanto. As soon as the number of users passes a certain threshold it will become a matter of course for people everywhere.
Most people now have either no idea at all about Esperanto, or a quite misguided one. This, rather than well-thought-out arguments, may well be the reason why it is not generally accepted. In his book 'The Search for the Perfect Language' Umberto Eco told how he had for decades "dismissed the notion of Esperanto".205 While researching this wide-ranging book he looked more deeply into the matter and - as we have shown - gave a very positive account of it, refuting almost any imaginable objection.
The Catholic Church (together with other Christian Churches) is faced with a decision, whether simply to let the politics of language remain the concern of the layperson, or instead to put forward its own proposals, ideas and demands. If the Church leaves responsibiliity for language politics in the hands of Heads of State, Ministers for Culture and national parliaments, this in reality leaves it to the economy, that is, to the global market, the multinational companies and commercial enterprises. These have not the slightest interest in language human rights. For them, linguistic diversity gets in the way of profit. It is, therefore, highly desirable that the Church should involve itself in the politics of language, in which, after all, it has incomparable experience.
"If I knew the end of the world would come tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree today." This saying is attributed to Martin Luther. It is a paradox that many people admire these words, though most still say "I would only learn Esperanto today if I could be certain that everyone else would learn Esperanto tomorrow."
But still it is encouraging to see that there are people who choose not to study the languages that would give most advantage to themselves, but that language which could most benefit the human race. It is not unusual to find that doing something unselfish turns out to be a pleasure. Esperanto is an excellent example. To most people it does not appear to be any use in everyday life or in a professional career; they take it up simply from idealistic motives. But then, when they have learnt the language, they find that it has positively enriched their lives and provided an abundance of unexpectedly meaningful and agreeable connections with the whole world.
Christian esperantists retain a beautiful vision which the Church could help to bring about by encouragement and action. But even now there exists a beautiful reality of easy communication on a basis of equality in a fraternal atmosphere, with many opportunities to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. We shall conclude with a quotation from Bishop Karel Otcenásek:
One of the most important initiatives and fruits of the Second Vatican Council is the new concept of evangelization - 'aggiornamento' - dialogue with the World. We have a superb tool for this dialogue - the supra-national language, which sets no one above anyone else and neglects no one. Let us use this instrument to spread the love of God among the human race.206
DR Dia Regno (KELI's magazine)
EK Espero Katolika (IKUE's magazine)
IKUE Internacia Katolika Unuigxo Esperantista (International Catholic Esperanto Union)
IKUEJ IKUE-Junularo (IKUE-Youth)
JET Junulara Ekumena Esperanto-Tendaro (Ecumenical Esperanto Youth Camp)
KELI Kristana Esperantista Ligo Internacia (International Christian Esperanto League)
KET Katolika Esperanto-Tendaro (Catholic Esperanto Camp)
IKUE, Via di Porta Fabbrica 15, I-00165 Roma RM, Italio,
KELI, Els van Dijk-Kuperus, Koningsmantel 4, NL-2403 HZ Alphen a/d Rijn, the Netherlands,
This book's website (English version): home.t-online.de/home/ulrich.matthias/latin_en.htm
Esperanto in general (in about 50 languages): www.esperanto.net
1887 On the 27th of July, Dr Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof publishes the first textbook of Esperanto.
1902 The Espero Katolika society is founded by Father Emile Peltier. A year later he begins publishing the magazine of the same name.
1905 The first large gathering of Catholic Esperantists takes place during the first World Esperanto Congress in Boulogne-sur-Mer.
1910 The first Catholic Esperanto Congress is held in Paris. During the Congress, the International Catholic Esperanto Union (IKUE), is founded.
1911 KELI, the International Christian Esperanto League, is founded by Protestant Esperantists in Antwerp.
1926 In London, the British and Foreign Bible Society publishes the Bible in Esperanto (Old and New Testaments).
1945-89 Despite numerous obstacles, Catholic Esperantists are extremely active, even in Eastern Europe.
1968 The first Ecumenical Esperanto Congress is held in Limburg, Germany.
1977 Vatican Radio begins regular broadcasts in Esperanto (once a week at first, then twice a week from 1981, and three times a week since 1998).
In Czechoslovakia the police arrest the organiser of the Catholic Esperanto Camps; shortly afterwards IKUE's Czech section is forced to disband.
1990 In November, the Vatican approves the Esperanto translation of the prayers of the Mass.
1991 At the World Youth Day in Czestochowa, Poland, Pope John Paul II greets the participants in several languages including Esperanto.
After an enforced break of 14 years, IKUE's Czech section resumes organising the Catholic Esperanto Camps.
In the first Special Synod for Europe at the end of November, Auxiliary Bishop György Jakubinyi of Rumania, now archbishop of Alba Iulia, appeals for the introduction of Esperanto as a means of communication within the Church.
1992 By a decree of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the Holy See officially recognises IKUE as an international organisation of Catholic faithful.
1994 Pope John Paul II includes Esperanto among the languages of his annual Easter and Christmas greetings.
1995 In Rome, the Esperanto Missal and Lectionary for Sundays and Feastdays is published.
1996 IKUEJ, the youth section of IKUE, is founded during the Catholic Esperanto Camp at Sebranice (Czech Republic).
1997 The first Ecumenical Youth Esperanto Camp (JET) takes place in Unterkirnach (Black Forest, southern Germany).
At a general audience in St Peter's Square, participants in IKUE's 50th Congress are personally greeted by Pope John Paul II speaking in Esperanto.
1998 At Taizé, the 2nd Ecumenical Youth Esperanto Camp organises conversation circles and discussions on the Scriptures in Esperanto.
2001 The prayer and hymnbook ADORU of 1,472 pages is published in Germany.
E. The structure of Esperanto
The Esperanto alphabet has 28 letters:
a, b, c, cx, d, e, f, g, gx, h, hx, i, j, jx, k, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, sx, t, u, ux, v, z
a, e, i, o, u are simple vowels like in English f-a-ther, b-e-d, mach-i-ne, cr-o-ss, J-u-ne.
c ts - as in tsar, bits
cx ch - as in church
g g - always hard as in go
gx j - as in joke
hx German ch - as in loch, ach
j y - as in yes
(oj: oy - as in boy)
jx zh - as s in pleasure
r always pronounced, rolled if possible
s s - as in see
sx sh - as in shall
ux w - as in will
Words are always stressed on the second-to-last syllable: hotelo, kontinento, familio
The followings endings characterize parts of speech:
-o noun sukceso - success
-i verb (infinitive) sukcesi - to succeed
-a adjective sukcesa - successful
In the plural a -j is added both to nouns and to the adjectives that belong to them:
granda domo - a big house
grandaj domoj - big houses
Adverbs have the ending -e:
Lisa estas bela. - Lisa is beautiful.
Lisa kantas bele. - Lisa sings beautifully.
The direct object of a verb is marked with -n (accusative ending):
Li estas bona amiko. - He is a good friend.
Li havas bonan amikon. - He has a good friend.
The definite article (the) is "la". The English indefinite article (a, an) is not translated:
la tablo - the table tablo - a table
la tabloj - the tables tabloj - tables
The personal pronouns are:
mi - I gxi - it
vi - you ni - we
li - he ili - they
sxi - she
The possessive adjectives are formed by adding the adjective ending -a to the corresponding pronoun:
mia - my, via - your, lia - his, ...
The six endings of the verb are:
-as present tense -i infinitive
-is past tense -u imperative
-os future -us conditional
There are no irregular verbs, and the endings do not depend on the subject:
mi estas - I am, vi estas - you are, li estas - he is, ...
The basic numerals are:
Tens, hundreds and thousands are formed by simple conjunction of the numerals:
2,374 dumil tricent sepdek kvar
Ordinal numbers are formed with the ending -a:
unua - first, dua - second, tria - third, ...
Yes-no questions are formed with "cxu":
Cxu vi komprenas min? - Do you understand me?
(jes = yes, ne = no)
The comparative of adjectives is formed with "pli" (more), the superlative with "plej" (most):
granda - big
pli granda ol - bigger than
plej granda - biggest
In Esperanto, there is a system of affixes that allows you to construct many words, in such a way that it is not necessary to learn them specially. Here are some examples:
mal- opposite: bona - good, malbona - bad
re- again, back: vidi - see, revidi - see again;
veni - come, reveni - come back, return
-ar collection: arbo - a tree, arbaro - a forest
-ebl possibility: vidi - to see, videbla - visible
-eg more, bigger: varma - warm, varmega - hot
-ej place: lerni - to lern, lernejo - school
-et less, smaller: libro - book, libreto - booklet
-ig to make: plena - full, plenigi - to fill
-il tool, instrument: razi - to shave, razilo - razor
-in feminine: regxo - king, regxino - queen
-ul person: sankta - holy, sanktulo - a saint
For more detailed introductions to Esperanto, see the web page www.esperanto.net.
Pregxo de la Sinjoro/Patronia (The Lord's Prayer / The Our Father)
Patro nia, kiu estas en la cxielo, sanktigata estu via nomo. Venu via regno, farigxu via volo, kiel en la cxielo, tiel ankaux sur la tero. Nian panon cxiutagan donu al ni hodiau, kaj pardonu al ni niajn sxuldojn, kiel ankaux ni pardonas al niaj sxuldantoj. Kaj ne konduku nin en tenton, sed liberigu nin de la malbono. Cxar via estas la regno kaj la potenco kaj la gloro eterne. Amen.
Saluton Maria (The Hail Mary)
Saluton Maria, gracoplena, la Sinjoro estas kun vi. Benata vi estas inter la virinoj, kaj benata estas la frukto de via sino, Jesuo. Sankta Maria, Dipatrino, pregxu por ni pekuloj, nun kaj en la horo de nia morto. Amen.
From the end of the 19th century to the present day, Esperanto has served to bring about better understanding between Christians from different countries. Nevertheless, the language, its aims, advantages and uses, are still unknown to a large part of the world's population.
The first scientific study to examine the language barrier in the Church and the prospects of Esperanto was the dissertation of the Polish Capuchin Father Jerzy Korytkowski. The Italian original - "La Chiesa e il problema della lingua ausiliare internazionale" (The Church and the problem of an international auxiliary language), Rome 1976 - was translated into French207 and Spanish208; in 1984 a completely revised edition in Polish209 was published.
In the 1990s - following the collapse of the totalitarian regimes and with some encouragement from the Vatican - the Christian Esperanto movement experienced new optimism. A German priest, Father Bernhard Eichkorn, looked for someone to write a new book on the Church and
Esperanto as an alternative to his original idea of translating Father Korytkowski's work into German. This is how the book "Esperanto - das neue Latein der Kirche"210 came to be published in 1999. Most of its 10,000 copies were sold within two years.
After receiving offers to translate the book into other languages, the author wrote an updated and expanded Esperanto version, published in 2001 under the title: "Esperanto - la nova latino de la Eklezio".211 Thanks to the work of Mike Leon (New Zealand) and Maire Mullarney (Ireland) it is now available in an English translation revised by the author. To all who helped with the publication of this book through their suggestions, contributions or proofreading, the author expresses his heartfelt thanks, especially to the two translators and the proofreaders
Adolf Burkhardt (Germany), William W. Patterson and Chuck Smith (U.S.A.), ...
The international language Esperanto, politically neutral and easy to learn, was created to facilitate understanding between people of different races, languages and religions. From its earliest years it attracted the interest of Christians, who began using the language in order to make contact with people all over the world on a basis of equality.
Esperanto gained increasing support in the international Christian community, including the Vatican. This book describes the history and current state of the Christian Esperanto movement and shows how the international language can serve the Church as the "New Latin".
Ulrich Matthias was born in Germany in 1966 and studied mathematics in Heidelberg, where he gained a PhD in 1994. After six months as a European Research Fellow at the Hungarian
Academy of Sciences, in 1996 he began work as an actuary in Wiesbaden.
He learned Esperanto in 1986, and since then he has taken part in numerous international gatherings of Esperanto-speaking Christians. In 2001 he married Nan Wang, a Catholic from China, whom he had met the year before at the World Congress of Young Esperantists in Hong Kong.
Zamenhof at the age of 16
Louis de Beaufront
Catholic Esperanto Camp in Sebranice, 1994
Catholic Esperanto Camp in Sebranice, 1995
National languages of Catholics
Spanish, Portuguese, French, English, Italian, German, Polish,
(estimate by the author)
National languages of all Christians
English, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, German, French, Italian, Polish, Tagalog, Ucrainian, others (estimate by the author)
World Congress of Young Esperantists in Strasbourg (France), 2001
The author and his wife Nan Matthias-Wang
Text on the title page
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth
IN PRINCIPIO CREAVIT DEUS CAELUM ET TERRAM
En la komenco Dio kreis la cxielon kaj la teron