Vatican News
Meeting of Pope Francis with the indigenous people of the Amazon 19 January 2018 Meeting of Pope Francis with the indigenous people of the Amazon 19 January 2018  (Vatican Media)

Pope Francis: Native languages are a defense against ideological dictatorship

On International Mother Language Day, Pope Francis words remind us how important the mother tongue is in resisting colonialization and in passing on the faith.

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

Today is International Mother Language Day. Promoted by UNESCO, this day seeks to promote lingual and cultural diversity, as well as the ability to speak more than one language.

Safeguarding one's mother tongue

Pope Francis supports the use of one’s mother tongue. “The mother tongue is a bastion against ideological and cultural colonialization, and against a dominant way of thinking, which destroys diversity,” he said during his homily at Santa Marta in November 2017. For Pope Francis, not being able to speak in one’s native language is a way of erasing history in order to undermine freedom of thought. Each dialect, Pope Francis says, “has historical roots.”

Memory and dialect

Two things defend a people when confronted with colonialization, Pope Francis believes: memory and dialect. “Who preserves memory and dialect?” he asks. “Women, who are stronger than men,” the Pope responded. It is only the strength that women have that “is capable of resisting a cultural and ideological colonialization,” he continues. And history bears witness—from the Bible all the way to the dictatorial genocide in Europe in the last century.

Faith is passed on through the mother tongue

Faith is transmitted through “Mommy and Daddy’s language,” through “grandma and grandpa’s language,” Pope Francis said on 7 January of this year to the parents whose children he baptized that day. “Do not forget that. Your task is to pass on the faith—but do it with the dialect of the love of your home,” he said. True faith, the Pope affirms, is learned from our mother’s lips, through that language which only the child can understand.

21 February 2018, 15:02