The Many Languages of Pope John Paul II

Dear Catholic Exchange,

An article on your website mentions that Pope John Paul II spoke 8 languages fluently. I am trying to find what 8 languages that would be. If there is someone who can help me, I would really appreciate it.

Thank you in advance for your time.

Katie Wilson

Dear Katie,

Peace in Christ!

Thank you for your question regarding the many languages that Pope John Paul II spoke fluently.

Our research indicated several different numbers reported. Though the most frequent number of languages was eight, some places put the number at eleven. Certainly, not only was John Paul II fluent in many languages, he also could speak many more with facility and had at least a working knowledge of them. In fact, last Christmas, he sent greetings to the world in 62 languages.

As far as what specific languages John Paul II could speak fluently, reports varied here as well. George Blazynski mentions only six languages: Polish, Italian, Spanish, French, German, and Latin (Pope John Paul II: A Richly Revealing Portrait, New York: Dell Publishing Co, 1979).

The Boston Globe listed eight languages that Pope John Paul II could speak fluently: Polish, Italian, English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin. Many other places that reported the number of languages as eight included nearly the same list except Russian was substituted for Portuguese. One account included both Russian and Portuguese, but left off Latin, a language the pope most certainly knew fluently.

Few places that gave the number of eleven languages actually listed them, but one source did. This list included: Polish, Slovak, Russian, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Ukrainian, English, and Latin. Certainly, it is not incorrect to say that John Paul II could speak all of these languages to some degree of facility, along with others such as Japanese and Tagalog.

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