Esperanto could seriously become the lingua franca?

English editon (html) - Esperanta eldono (html) - po-russki (html) - français (html) - português (pdf)

Ulrich Matthias

The new Latin of the Church

The international language in the service of understanding
among Protestant and Catholic Christians

(C) Armin Gmeiner Verlag, Meßkirch 1999
122 pages - ISBN 3-926633-39-5 - EUR 9.90

To the table of contents

Available in bookshops or (for EUR 9.90 including shipping costs, from 3 copies each EUR 6.60) from the author [email protected]

This book is also in an updated and expanded version Esperanto- Version published: Esperanto - la nova latino de la Eklezio, Flandra Esperanto-Ligo, Antwerp 2001 The Esperanto version has been translated into five other languages, e.g. English -
Esperanto - The New Latin for the Church and for Ecumenism - and French: L'Espéranto. Un nouveau latin pour l'Église et pour l'humanté. For more links see above.

The editions in the other languages ​​each contain around 10 illustrations and around 200 footnotes. The French edition of September 2005 has been significantly expanded (282 pages) and completely updated. The book may appear in other languages:

Draft of the new German-language book "Esperanto - a chance for Europe":



 1 Introduction

2. The idea of ​​a universal language

3. Ludwig Zamenhof

4. The Church and Esperanto

5. The use of Esperanto among believers

6. Arguments

7. Perspectives


You will find the complete text of the book below - albeit without a number of minor corrections and changes that have been incorporated into the printed version of the book. You are welcome to send your comments (and possibly also orders for the printed edition) to the author: [email protected]


From Dr. György Jakubiny
Archbishop of Alba Iulia (Karlsburg), Romania

This foreword to the Esperanto edition is also included in the English and French, but not in the printed German edition.

When it comes to Latin, I'm always nostalgic. In my childhood, in a difficult communist state, I was an acolyte for ten years. We have memorized the beautiful Latin prayers - the acolytes' answers - and recited them without knowing the language, but the competent pastors in acolyte classes made sure that we had little idea what these Latin prayers were about. The introduction of vernacular languages ​​into the liturgy in the Latin rite has thoroughly resolved this difficulty.

But international understanding remains. In the past - before Vatican II - we were always told that Catholics feel at home anywhere in the world, because the liturgy is celebrated in the same language, so it is generally understandable. Go to China, we were told, there you will understand the liturgy too, because it is Latin. Hence the former anecdote of the Szecklerungarn of Transylvania: Two country people are abroad and go to the Catholic Church on Sunday. When they hear the Holy Mass in Latin, one of them whispers to the other: You see, they speak Hungarian here too! Of course, one cannot dismiss the difficult part of the question with anecdotes. In order to maintain the uniformity or unity of the liturgy, using the general Latin liturgical language, how many Catholics could enjoy it, how many Catholics could or could go abroad as tourists or guest workers? Therefore Vatican II decided to introduce the mother tongue for those staying at home - and they are the overwhelming majority.

The council actually only introduced the mother tongue as an admission in the liturgy for the benefit of general understanding. "The use of the Latin language should be preserved in the Latin rites, as long as special law does not conflict with it. Since the use of the mother tongue can often be very useful for the people at mass, during the administration of the sacraments and in other areas of the liturgy It may be permitted to give it a further room, especially in the readings and notes and in some orations and chants in accordance with the rules that will be set out in detail in the following chapters. " (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium 36, 1-3, Small Council Compendium 64). In practice, however, it looks very different: the mother tongue has completely replaced Latin.

I myself am an enthusiastic Latinist. Not only because of my upbringing as a Roman Catholic priest, i.e. Latin rite, but also as a humanistically educated man who also taught Latin in a small seminary. It would be nice if the whole world understood Latin! Sometimes a travel guide or conversation book appears in Latin, with such beautiful idioms: Apud tonsorem, at the hairdresser's etc. (e.g. Angela Wilkes, Latin for beginners, London 1999). Where, in which country, would a hairdresser understand Latin? If you have the Fischer World Almanac 2000 takes on hand, it turns out that there is only one state in the world where Latin is the official language: Status Civitatis Vaticanae (Stato della Cittá del Vaticano, i.e. Vatican City State). According to other sources, the Repubblica di Sancti Marino (Res Publica Sancti Marini, i.e. Republic of San Marino) would also have Latin as its second official language. The difference between the two is that Latin is the first official language in the Vatican and Italian is the second; in the Republic of St. Marinus it is the other way round. In practice, however, this is not the case, because one tries in vain to speak Latin at the butcher of the Vatican. Italian is widely spoken. Latin has a venerable position, but not in practical life.

The same must be said of the Church. Until Vatican II it was and is the official language. With the introduction of the mother tongue into the liturgy, Latin has been pushed back. Why learn Latin when it has declined in Church practice? Indeed, the liturgy was mainly the field of practice for Latin. The papal Roman universities generally introduced Italian in 1970n. Of course, they kept a place of honor for Latin, but the students mostly voted for Italian. I myself came to Rome in 1970 for higher biblical studies. This year the professors asked the students whether they would like to keep Latin. It was a general rejection. Even so, some professors - especially non-Italian - kept Latin as the language of instruction because it was possible. They have lost nothing in terms of the number of listeners because they were professors of high standing. The papal universities must accept students' works in six languages: Latin, Italian, English, French, Spanish, German. For the oral exam, the professor is obliged to accept Latin and Italian, plus the languages ​​that he himself specifies. So I was able to take an oral exam in my mother tongue, Hungarian.

The Catholic Church closed the Latin epoch with the introduction of the mother tongue into the liturgy. The good Pope John XXIII on the one hand promoted the mother tongue, on the other hand he also wanted to keep Latin. Of course it wasn't. Even in the Vatican, Italian is spoken throughout. The 21 dicasteries (i.e., "ministries") of the Holy See accept all documents in the six languages ​​mentioned above. But if you want them to be processed more quickly, you should submit it in Italian, because all Vatican officials speak Italian, the other languages ​​less.

So it came about that as a bishop I have already pleaded for Esperanto instead of Latin at two synods of bishops. It was at the two extraordinary Synods of Bishops for Europe in Rome on November 29, 1991 and October 4, 1999, in the presence of the Holy Father. I have seen that the Synod Fathers no longer speak Latin, although at the first Synod in 1967 Latin was still the general means of communication. When I first spoke about Esperanto as the new Latin of the Church, I met smiles and resistance. And I experienced the same thing again eight years later. You don't know Esperanto at all. I mentioned in vain that there might be a bit of anti-Semitism behind it, because the creator of Esperanto was a Polish Jew; but this sentence was mostly forgotten when I printed my request to speak. During the break, some confreres asked me if it wasn't just a joke. Seeing that their intention was not sincere, I replied: It struck me that at the Synod the only way to attract attention is to say something sensational. That's why I mentioned Esperanto.

When I spoke twice in favor of Esperanto at a synod of bishops, I was actually concerned with combating linguistic imperialism. An Indian theologian writes: When he writes in his mother tongue, some experts read it. It is never noticed abroad. But if a less important theologian writes in English, everyone reads him, he is quoted and included in the scientific literature. The major world languages ​​fight for hegemony or at least for co-rule in the world on a linguistic level. This is also the language tragedy of the United Nations, with the many official languages. But when a national language becomes a world language, for better or for worse, the way of thinking of the people is also given. If English is the colloquial language of the world today, it was not the English culture that decided it, but the American dollar.

That is why I thought that if Latin is no longer practiced in the Church, why not introduce the international language Esperanto? Everything would suddenly be easier, cheaper, etc. in international understanding in the church. Of course I am of the opinion that Esperanto as Auxiliary language is to be used, i.e. the mother tongue at home and Esperanto in international communication.If the Church would accept this long-proposed solution for international understanding, one would suddenly solve the language problem in the everyday life of the Catholic Church on an international level.

The signs that the Church is ready to accept Esperanto as the new "Church Latin" are already there. I would like to mention only a few: Esperanto broadcasts by Radio Vaticana, approbation of Mass texts, greetings from the Holy Father in Esperanto at Easter and Christmas, recognition of the IKUE by the Pontifical Lay Council, etc.

1 Introduction

Sebranice is a small village near Litomysl, around 150 km east of Prague. There is a campsite in the valley below the church. Every summer, young people from five to ten countries meet there. They pray together, they discuss together, they sing together. If walkers passed the campground, they would think they spoke Spanish, Italian or Latin there. But none of this is true. The young people speak Esperanto.

"Patro nia, kiu estas en la chielo, sanktigata estu via nomo ..." is how one prays the Our Father there. It is similar to Latin: "Pater noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum." Both languages ​​are neutral. And both languages ​​have other advantages. Latin is the old Esperanto of the Church. It looks back on over 2000 years of history. It was the language of the Doctors of the Church and retained its central role as the European language of scholars until the early modern period. Because of the abundance of original Latin texts alone, the Latin language will always play an important role in theology. In 1962, Karl Rahner emphasized in his book "About Latin as Church Language": "Without knowledge of Latin, a theological training that is necessary for priests is absolutely inconceivable."

It is not the purpose of this book to contradict this thesis. Rather, the focus here is on the language problem of the present. And the advantages of Esperanto deserve attention. The Latin language has largely lost its once important role as a cross-border means of communication. This is mainly due to the great amount of learning that is required to master them. Most students still find it difficult to read texts by Caesar or Cicero in the original even after four or five years of teaching Latin. Learning the numerous declensions and conjugations is tedious and not necessarily valuable from an educational point of view; it is often difficult to recognize the function of a Latin word in a sentence, and after all, the vocabulary of this language is vast.

In all these points Esperanto is decisively superior to Latin. There are no irregular verbs in Esperanto; you can recognize nouns and adjectives immediately by the ending -O or. -a; The plural and accusative are always added by adding -j or. -n educated. A system of prefixes and suffixes makes it possible to derive related words from one another quite regularly, so that in Esperanto one can achieve a considerable ability to express themselves with about 1000 word stems.

Let us now return to the camp in Sebranice. When 80 young Christians from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Germany and Romania live together for two weeks, they have a lot to say to each other - provided they can communicate. They bring different experiences with them from the past and can discuss how they can shape their future together.

Some of the participants come from deeply religious families and therefore had to suffer some disadvantages and privations during the time of socialism. Others come from atheistic backgrounds. But at some point in their lives they felt an interest in religious questions, in the person of Jesus, in the Christian way of life. The camp enriches them with experiences in a world of faith that is still quite new to them.

Most young people from Eastern Europe have learned German or English in school for around five years, with partially satisfactory, but often only very modest, success. They became aware of Esperanto through friends, relatives or their pastor; others have read an article about the language in Christian magazines and then ordered a correspondence course. For some, it took half a year before Esperanto became their strongest foreign language. The question arises as to whether it would be desirable to teach Esperanto in schools.

Miloslav Svacek, the long-time chairman of the Czech section of the International Catholic Esperanto Association, emphasizes that the organization of the tent camp is definitely worth the effort: "Young people from different countries spend two weeks there in a Christian atmosphere, they practice the faith together. That in itself is a reason to be happy. "

But a fascinating vision remains: that one day believers all over the world can communicate without any problems and then really as a Feeling fellowship in Jesus Christ. A resolute advocacy of Esperanto by the Church would bring this language a gain in popularity that might lead to a worldwide introduction of Esperanto into schools.

This book is intended to enable clergy and laypeople to judge whether this step is desirable.

2. The idea of ​​a universal language

Since the Middle Ages there have been more than 1000 attempts to consciously construct a language. The motives and methods were very different. The spectrum ranges from the Lingua Ignota, a secret language of St. Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) to Klingon, which the American linguist Marc Okrand developed for the television series 'Star Trek' ('Spaceship Enterprise'). We are primarily interested in those language projects that are intended to facilitate international understanding.

The beginnings

When the national languages ​​increasingly supplanted Latin as the European language of scholars in the 17th century, the theory of universal languages ​​experienced its first heyday. Numerous important philosophers, mathematicians and educators were involved in the construction of a Lingua universalis. They promised themselves two things from it: On the one hand, the new language, as Leibniz (1646-1716) put it, should be 'easy to learn' and 'serve the understanding between peoples in an admirable way'; on the other hand, it should promote human reason make thinking easier. Comenius, Descartes, Newton and Leibniz tried to construct such a language.

They did not take the vocabulary of their projects from ethnic languages, rather it was based on a classification of ideas. Newton tended to name each category with a fixed letter, e.g. tools with s, Animals with t and states of mind with b, and Leibniz, for example, introduced the term 'man' as a product a*r dar, where a for 'animal' and r stands for 'rationalis'. But the elaboration of such a thing a priori, philosophical project on a functional language would, as its authors already recognized, be associated with various difficulties. So it is not surprising that the dream of a new language to facilitate human knowledge had to remain a utopia.

The idea of ​​a a posteriori To develop planned language, i.e. a planned language that is based on one or more ethnic languages ​​in terms of vocabulary and grammar. The first project of this kind is likely to be the simplified Latin that Phillippe Labbé (1607-1667) published under the title 'Grammatica linguae universalis missionum et commerciorum'. In the following centuries more than 30 other drafts of a modified Latin appeared, among which the 'Latino sine flexione' (1903) by the mathematician Giuseppe Peano (1858-1932) became the best known, and about as many attempts to use English, Simplify French or a Slavic language. First international A posterior project is a design by A. Gerber from 1832.

The 'Universalglot' published in 1868 by the Lorraine teacher Jean Pirro (1831-1886) already looks very pleasant and natural: Ma senior! I send evos un grammar e un verb-bible de un nuov glot nomed universal glot. In future I scripterai evos semper in dit glot. But even this project, which was already quite well designed, did not acquire any practical significance. This only succeeded the 'Volapük' of the Baden pastor Johann Martin Schleyer (1831-1912).

Thanks to the avid propagation of its author, the Volapük found over a hundred thousand followers all over the world just a few years after its publication in May 1879. A few dozen magazines appeared in the language, and in 1889 283 Volapük associations were registered. But despite its regularity, the Volapük was difficult to learn; the words seemed strange, and by the turn of the century the Volapük movement was disappearing almost as quickly as it had emerged.


In 1887 the ophthalmologist Dr. Ludwig Zamenhof (1859-1917) in Warsaw under the pseudonym "Doktoro Esperanto" published the first textbook in his international language. He wanted to make a contribution to peace and international understanding. The pseudonym 'Esperanto' (= 'Hopeful') soon became the name of the language itself.

Esperanto became the most successful planned language. We will deal with it in more detail in the following chapters.

Newer projects

At the beginning of this century, numerous attempts to reform Volapük or Esperanto led to new language projects. In 1905 the French Louis de Beaufront (1855-1935) and Louis Couturat (1868-1914) published the project I do, a reformed Esperanto to which around 5% of Esperanto speakers defected before the First World War. In 1951 the 'International Language Association' in New York published the one drawn up by Alexander Gode Interlingua, an extremely naturalistic project that dispenses with a more regular grammar in favor of the naturalness of the words.

Even today, one to three new planned language projects are published every year. Got a certain amount of attention in the German media Glosa (1981) by Ron Clark and Wendy Ashby, Uropi (1986) by the French teacher Joël Landais (1946-) and Unitario (1989) by the Hessian mechanical engineer Rolf Riehm (1944-). But the authors of these projects seem to have difficulties in recruiting even a single additional speaker.

In general, very few planned language projects survived the death of their inventor. Esperanto is spoken by one to three million people in 120 countries today, Interlingua by around 1,000 in 25 countries and Ido by around 200 in ten countries.

A comparison

For comparison, the following is the beginning of Our Father listed in several planned languages.

  • Volapük, Schleyer 1879: O fat obas kel binol in süls, paisaludomöz nem ola, kömomoed monargän ola, jenomöz vil olik, as in sül i su tal.
  • Esperanto, Zamenhof 1887: Patro nia, kiu estas en la chielo, sanktigata estu via nomo, venu via regno, farighu via volo, kiel en la chielo, tiel ankau sur la tero.
  • Latino sine flexione, Peano 1903: Patre nostro qui es in celos, que tuo nomine fi sanctificato, que tuo regno adveni, que tua voluntate es facta sicut in celo et in terra.
  • Ido, de Beaufront and Couturat 1905: Patro nia, qua esas en la cielo, tua nomo santigesez, tua regno advenez, tua volo facesez quale en la cielo, tale anke en la tero.
  • Interlingua, Gode 1951: Nostre Patre, qui es in le celos, que tu nomine sia sanctificate; que tu regno veni; que tu voluntate sia facite super le terra como etiam in le celo.
  • Klingon, Okrand 1985: vavma 'QI'tu'Daq, quvjaj ponglIj: ghoSjaj wo'lIj, qaSjaj Dochmey DaneHbogh, tera'Daq QI'tu'Daq je.

3. Ludwig Zamenhof

The emergence of Esperanto

 "The idea, to which I have dedicated my whole life, appeared to me in my earliest childhood and has never left me since then," wrote Ludwig Zamenhof in 1895 to the Russian Nikolaj Borovko. Zamenhof was born in 1859 in the Polish part of the Russian Empire, in the city of Bialystok, which is today not far from the Belarusian and Lithuanian border in northeast Poland. Zamenhof went on to write about the importance of this city for the emergence of Esperanto: The pupil Ludwig Zamenhof began to think about a language that would connect the peoples. He was the son of a language teacher. He called Russian his mother tongue, but he also spoke Polish and German fluently as a child. He soon learned French, Latin, Greek, Hebrew and English, but he also studied Yiddish, Italian, Spanish and Lithuanian.

His new language should be as easy to learn as possible and should not favor or disadvantage anyone. At the age of 18, Zamenhof had already completed a first draft of an international language: In December 1878 he and a few classmates celebrated the birth of his new language. They sang the hymn of the 'Lingwe Uniwersala', which began with the following words:

Malamikece de las nacjes Enmity between peoples
Kadó, kadó, jam temp 'está! Fall, fall, it's time
La tot 'homoze in familje All of humanity must
Konunigare so debá. Unite as a family.

But Zamenhof did not stop working on his language. Three different drafts of his language are known from 1881. Zamenhof tried to think immediately in the new language and finally noticed that - as he himself noted - 'this has already ceased to be a mere shadow of this or that language with which I was occupied at one minute or another, and maintains its own soul, its own life, its own specific and clearly expressed physionomy, which is no longer dependent on any influences. The language was already flowing by itself, flexible, elegant and completely free, like the living mother tongue. '

This is how the 'Lingvo Internacia' got its final form in 1885. Zamenhof wrote a small textbook on his language. But no publisher was ready to publish it. Let Zamenhof tell himself how he solved this problem: The German version was entitled 'International Language. Preface and full textbook '. The brochure contains a detailed foreword in which Zamenhof explains what great advantages an international language has for science, trade and international understanding. It is remarkable that Zamenhof already emphasized here that his language 'does not want to penetrate into the inner life of the peoples'. So it is not up to him if Esperanto still has to fight the prejudice that it wants to displace national languages. The first textbook also contains the 16 basic grammatical rules of the 'Internacia Lingvo' and some sample texts: the Lord's Prayer, the first verses of the book Genesis, the translation of a poem by Heinrich Heine and two poems originally written in the new language. An additional leaflet contains a list of 917 word stems with an explanation of their use. On the second page of the brochure we find a remarkable entry: 'An international language, like any national one, is a common property; the author renounces all personal rights to her forever. ' In contrast to the inventor of the Volapük, Johann Martin Schleyer, Zamenhof left it to the general public to further develop his language. He even asked not to be called an 'author' but only 'initiator' of the language.

The first years of the new language

Zamenhof sent his first textbook to numerous personalities, newspaper editors and institutions all over the world. The first answers arrived soon afterwards - with questions, criticism and advice, but not a few with praise and approval. Some were already written in the new language itself. Zamenhof decided to answer the many questions and suggestions to him in a second book, the 'Dua libro de l'Lingvo Internacia', which he published in early 1888. It was written entirely in Esperanto, and he declared there that his 'deep belief in humanity' had not disappointed him, because "from all sides (...) young and old people, men and women, come to find their building blocks for to bring about a large, important and very useful building ". A few months after the publication of the 'Dua libro', Zamenhof was able to publish a first literary work in Esperanto - the short story 'The Snowstorm' by Pushkin, which was translated not by Zamenhof himself but by the Polish chemist Antoni Grabowski.

In December 1888, the Nuremberg Volapük Association converted to Esperanto. The first Esperanto group was created. From September 1889 she published the monthly magazine 'La esperantisto'. At about the same time an address directory appeared with the addresses of 1000 people who had learned Esperanto by then. "After four years, our literature already has over 50 different works. There are now 33 textbooks and dictionaries for our language," Zamenhof stated in January 1891.

But in the years to come Esperanto had to struggle with many difficulties. Zamenhof fell into bitter poverty. In this situation, even his wife was rather averse to her husband's passion. Vasilij Nikolaevic Devjatnin, one of the first Russian Esperantists, tells of a visit to Zamenhof in 1893: Some Esperanto speakers strongly urged Zamenhof to reform his language; The discussions about this took up a lot of energy, but ultimately remained ineffective: "Because of the talk about reforms, the current year is completely lost for our cause," wrote Zamenhof in 1894. At the same time he expressed himself confident that all of this would soon be overcome, and should be right. In the summer and autumn of 1894, a clear majority of the readers of the magazine "La esperantisto" voted against any reforms.

No sooner had this problem been overcome than another severe blow struck the young language: In February 1895 the magazine "La esperantisto" printed an article by Leo Tolstoj in Esperanto translation. It was entitled "Reason and Faith" and caused the censorship of Tsarist Russia to impose an import ban on the magazine. "La esperantisto" lost almost three quarters of its subscribers and had to cease publication shortly afterwards for financial reasons.

But Esperanto also survived this setback: From December 1895, the Esperanto group Uppsala in Sweden published the magazine "Lingvo Internacia", which became the successor to "La esperantisto".

Around 1900 Esperanto experienced a significant boost. Zamenhof's economic situation improved, numerous intellectuals learned Esperanto in France, and from 1903 the publisher Jean Borel in Berlin published several tens of thousands of Esperanto advertising brochures.

In August 1905, the first Esperanto World Congress finally took place in Boulogne-sur-Mer on the French English Channel coast. 688 Esperanto speakers from 20 countries met there and were enthusiastic about how well communication in the new language worked. "Today it was not the French who met the English, not the Russians with the Poles, but people with people," said Zamenhof in his opening speech. And the Viennese university professor Theodor Fuchs described the congress even more euphorically with the following words: "A grace befell mankind, the Pentecostal miracle has renewed itself. Everyone felt like brothers, united under the green hope banner of Esperanto ... Tears came from their eyes old and serious men, a Catholic priest hugged a Protestant one, and the creator of the new language, Zamenhof, was walking around as if in a dream, trembling all over and struggling to find his calm again. "

Zamenhof's worldview

For Zamenhof, the idea of ​​an international language was part of a broader ideal. He had a world in mind in which all barriers between peoples would disappear - regardless of whether they are linguistic, religious, ethnic or social in nature.

But not all Esperanto speakers liked it when Zamenhof presented his thoughts on this. A theologian, of all people, the French Louis de Beaufront, decided at the turn of the century against associating Esperanto with idealistic aspirations. Instead, he emphasized the practical value of this language, he saw in it primarily a useful means of communication in international contacts, he emphasized its usefulness in trade, science and tourism. De Beaufront did not take part in the first World Esperanto Congress.The overly idealistic, almost religious traits of the early Esperanto movement repelled him; he viewed them as a threat to the language's success.

Zamenhof tried to find a compromise between his personal, pacifist convictions, which he shared above all with many Russian Esperanto pioneers, and the more objective, realistic attitude of others, especially French Esperanto speakers. He drafted a declaration for the first Esperanto World Congress, which, after minor changes, was unanimously adopted by the congress participants. In this "Deklaracio de la Bulonja Kongreso" he defines 'Esperantism', that is, the essence or goal of the Esperanto movement, as "an effort to spread throughout the world the use of a neutral human language, which, without entering into inner life of the peoples and without wanting to displace the national languages ​​even a little, gives people of different nationalities the opportunity to communicate.It can serve as a peacemaking language of public institutions in those countries where different nationalities dispute over the language; and in it those works can be published which are of equal interest to all peoples.Every other idea or hope that this or that Esperantist associates with Esperantism is his pure private Matter for which Esperantism is not responsible ".

Let us now turn to Zamenhof's religious worldview. As can be seen from the above, Esperanto is a religiously and ideologically neutral language; sympathy for Esperanto therefore does not require approval of Zamenhof's worldview.

Ludwig Zamenhof was not a Christian, but he was very positive about Christianity and all religions that are open to dialogue and cooperation. His mother was a devout Jew, his father was an atheist. Zamenhof himself tells about his religious career: At the age of 17 a new feeling arose in him: "I began to feel that death is not going to disappear," he wrote, and a belief in one above all was formed in him Earthly standing power, which at the same time represents "a great source of love and truth", as he wrote in his poem "Pregho sub la verda standardo" ("Prayer under the green flag"). He was aware of the positive effects faith can have on a person: And to young Christians he explained: "I am only a Jewish, faithful member of humanity ... but what is more beautiful in the world than Completely to follow the teaching of Jesus? "

Religious convictions caused Zamenhof to wish for a world in which love, truth and peace reign. This is perhaps most clearly expressed in the "Pregho sub la verda standardo" mentioned earlier. Experiences from his childhood, but also the pogroms of Russian soldiers in his birthplace Bialystok in 1905 strengthened the will in Zamenhof to contribute to the peaceful coexistence of peoples. In his speech at the 2nd Esperanto World Congress in Geneva in 1906, Zamenhof reports: With regard to this experience, he emphasizes that he "does not want to have anything in common" with an Esperanto that is only intended to serve trade and practical use. What matters to him is brotherhood and justice, and the dismantling of hostilities between peoples.

Just as resolutely, but less openly, than for the dismantling of language barriers, Zamenhof advocated overcoming religious differences. The sixth and last stanza of his poem "Pregho sub la verda standardo" contains the verses "Kristanoj, hebreoj kaj mahometanoj / ni chiuj de Di 'estas filoj" ("Christians, Jews and Mohammedans / we are all sons of God"). But this stanza was missing both at the first Esperanto World Congress, where he read the poem at the end of his opening speech, and in the "Fundamenta Krestomatio", in which he included it. Marjorie Boulton, author of an English-language Zamenhof biography, writes: Zamenhof was similarly cautious with regard to his writings on the subject of "Hillelism" or "Homaranism". What is meant is a kind of religion of humanity or the doctrine of fraternization. The term "Hillelism" was derived from Hillel, a Jewish scholar who lived around 30 BC. Worked in Jerusalem until 10 AD. Since his doctrine is not only directed against discrimination against Jews, Zamenhof later preferred the term "Homaranism", which can be translated as "doctrine of belonging to humanity". Already in 1901 Zamenhof had completed a font with the title "Hilelismo" and sent it to some friends, but it was not until 1906 that he made it available to the public in the form of a brochure and an article in the magazine "Ruslanda esperantisto". In both cases he did this anonymously, and he emphasized in a footnote that you can be a very good Esperantist and at the same time be an opponent of Hillelism or Homaranism.

At the Esperanto World Congress in Cracow in 1912, Zamenhof asked to be dismissed from his offices in the Esperanto movement in order to work for his cause from now on as a simple person, as one among others. Only now did he feel free to publish a brochure entitled "Homaranismo", the content of which largely coincides with that of 1906, under his own name. It was published in Madrid in 1913. The following excerpts may give an insight into Zamenhof's world of thought:

  1. I see only one person in every person, and I judge every person only on the basis of their personal worth and deeds. Any insult or discrimination against a person on the grounds that he belongs to a different people, language, religion or social class than I am, I consider barbarism.

  3. I am aware that every country does not belong to this or that people, but to all its inhabitants with full equal rights, regardless of their possible origin, religion or social position (...).
These excerpts show that Zamenhof was ahead of its time. His advocacy for mutual respect, understanding, equality and peaceful coexistence of religions and peoples has lost none of its relevance to this day.

4. The Church and Esperanto

The beginnings

The history of the Christian Esperanto movement is almost as old as the language itself. Just a few months after the first textbook was published, some clergymen became interested in the new language, including Bishop Zerr from Saratov.

The first very active ones catholic Esperanto speakers were the Lithuanian Aleksandras Dambrauskas (1860-1938) and the Frenchman Louis de Beaufront (1855-1935) mentioned in the previous chapter. Dambrauskas heard of the publication of the "Internacia Lingvo" as early as 1887 as a student at the Saint Petersburg seminary. He ordered the first textbook of the new language from Zamenhof and began to learn it with enthusiasm. After only a week he wrote Zamenhof a postcard in flawless Esperanto. Dambrauskas wrote the first Esperanto textbook for Lithuanians. It was published in Tilsit in East Prussia in 1890 and was smuggled from there to Lithuania, as the tsarist government forbade Lithuanians to publish printed matter in their mother tongue until 1904. Even the Zamenhof, who lived in Warsaw (or from 1893 to 1897 in Grodno) did not dare to openly offer the textbook for sale.

As early as 1893 Dambrauskas began to write religious poems originally in Esperanto; some of them appeared in his "Versajhareto" collection in 1905. He is considered the poet of the Catholic Esperanto movement. He also wrote two mathematical brochures and a philosophical book entitled "Malgrandaj pensoj pri grandaj demandoj". For half a century, until his death in 1938, Dambrauskas remained true to Esperanto.

Louis de Beaufront, whose real name was Louis Chevreux, was the first French Esperanto speaker. He got to know the language in 1888 and immediately began to propagate it eagerly. In 1892 he published an Esperanto textbook for the French, followed by various exercise books, dictionaries, grammars and informational pamphlets. De Beaufront had studied linguistics, philosophy and theology; he was a doctor of theology and earned his living, among other things, as a private tutor. In 1893 de Beaufront wrote a prayer book entitled "Preghareto por katolikoj". From 1898 he published the French-language magazine "L 'espérantiste", which appeared from the following year with an Esperanto-language supplement. In this magazine, de Beaufront was always happy to give Catholic Esperantists space for their articles. In 1908 de Beaufront left the Esperanto movement to promote the Ido reform project that he helped to develop.

Both Dambrauskas and de Beaufront were critical of Zamenhof's religious worldview. In the magazine "Ruslanda esperantisto" in particular, both of them had heated discussions with Zamenhof about his "homaranism". Dambrauskas was a Catholic pastor who, out of inner conviction, kept a certain distance from other denominations. From 1889 to 1895 he was exiled to the north of Russia by the tsarist regime because he had forbidden Catholic students to follow orders to attend a Russian Orthodox church. Dambrauskas described Zamenhof's homaranism as "anti-religious" because it placed other principles above the teaching of Jesus Christ. Zamenhof replied that this teaching could not and does not want to dissuade anyone from his religion, and after all, God would also prefer that people build bridges and work out common ideals and values ​​instead of having many religions and hating each other, everyone only considers his own religion to be the only true one.

De Beaufront, on the other hand, described the hope that "homaranism" would bring peace and happiness to people as "naive". Zamenhof replied that although he could not change the hearts of those people who do not want peace; Rather, he is concerned with "making this possible for the very many people who want justice and brotherhood between peoples".

With very objective arguments, de Beaufront succeeded in getting many French people interested in Esperanto. One of them was Emile Peltier, pastor of the parish of Sainte-Radegonde near Tours.Peltier began to learn Esperanto in 1901, and just a year later another French Esperanto speaker, Henri Auroux, encouraged him to found a Catholic Esperanto association. Peltier enthusiastically agreed to the idea and worked out a statute together with Auroux. The Archbishop of Tours, René François, gave his permission to found the association in a letter to Peltier on December 6, 1902: In December 1902 the association "Espero Katolika" was founded. Peltier and Auroux were able to recruit around 80 members, but no one except them was willing to take on a role in the association. Because of this, the attempt to register the association under French law ultimately failed. Peltier and Auroux decided to put the organization of the association on hold for the time being and instead to publish a magazine as an "international link between Catholics". Its first edition appeared in October 1903, also under the name "Espero Katolika". Auroux had taken over the editing of the magazine; Peltier took care of sales and administration. But just four months later, Auroux resigned as editor - possibly in connection with the fact that he had to take some criticism because of the linguistic deficiencies of the magazine.

Thus, all of the tasks associated with the magazine rested on Peltier's shoulders - the editing as well as the administration of the subscriptions and the dispatch. And Peltier still had to fulfill his duties as a pastor. There were also financial problems - the income from around 250 subscriptions was nowhere near enough to cover the costs of typesetting, printing and distribution of the magazine. And in addition, Peltier posed health problems.

But he continued to work bravely and optimistically on his cause. The first Esperanto World Congress in 1905 gave him new impulses. He was gripped by the idea of ​​"universal brotherhood" and from then on he campaigned primarily for what we now call "ecumenism" in his magazine. In January 1906 his "Open Letter to all Christian Pastors" appeared: Peltier suggested founding an association of Esperanto-speaking priests in order to work together towards overcoming denominational differences. He received numerous, partly positive, but mostly skeptical reactions to his appeal. It was not difficult to bring about a friendly conversation between clergymen of different denominations, said the French pastor Requin; the problem lies rather in leveling the contradictions in the doctrines and dogmas. The Anglican pastor John Cyprian Rust expressed his approval in principle to Peltier; but he feared that cooperation between Catholic and Protestant Esperanto speakers could damage the reputation of Esperanto in the Church. Peltier may actually have assessed the differences between the denominations as too minor - and yet his thoughts on how to overcome them are still relevant today.

1906 was also the year of the first papal blessing for the Esperanto movement. During a private audience on June 2 of that year, Luigi Giambene, Esperanto-speaking pastor from Rome, presented Pope Pius X with the volumes of the "Espero Katolika" and de Beaufront's prayer book. Soon afterwards he received the following letter from the Vatican, signed by Monsignor Giovanni Bressan: From August 28 to September 2, 1906, the 2nd World Esperanto Congress took place in Geneva. During this congress, the Spanish pastor Antonio Guinard celebrated a holy mass in Esperanto. During this mass, Peltier stepped onto the pulpit with visible emotion to preach in Esperanto - with the permission of the Vicar General of Geneva.

But it was the last Esperanto Congress that Peltier could attend. His illness tormented him more and more, and the magazine "Espero Katolika" often appeared very late. But she appeared. "The moral and spiritual powers - unfortunately not the physical ones - were simply enormous," writes Nico Hoen in his history of the Catholic Esperanto movement about Peltier, "and it was only these powers that he drew from his deepest trust in God support the admirable stamina and courage of Peltier. "

It was only when the magazine ceased to appear in August 1908 that people were found willing to take on Peltier's work. Claudius Colas, 24, became the magazine's new editor-in-chief, and the English abbot Austin Richardson took over management.

At the beginning of 1909 the "Espero Katolika" appeared again, with a last article by Peltier, who overruled the order of his doctor after complete calm. Peltier made a pilgrimage to Lourdes at this time and asked Mary to either heal him or give him the grace to be allowed to die in this holy place. He was given the latter grace. He died in Lourdes on February 17, 1909. "He gave his beloved magazine into our hands like a dying mother gives her beloved child into the hands of friends," wrote Claudius Colas in the "Espero Katolika" of March 1909.

A good year after Peltier's death, in April 1910, the first Catholic Esperanto Congress took place in Paris. As part of this congress, the "International Catholic Esperanto Association" (or "Internacia Katolika Unuigho Esperantista", or IKUE for short) was founded. In the following years the young organization was able to develop well. Further IKUE congresses took place every year, for example in The Hague in 1911, in Budapest in 1912 and in Rome in 1913. The magazine "Espero Katolika" appeared every month with great regularity.

The 5th IKUE Congress was to take place in Lourdes in August 1914. The preparations for this went according to plan: The Irish pastor and IKUE chairman Patrick Parker was able to report in the "Espero Katolika" of July / August 1914 "with great joy" about a papal blessing for the congress. But suddenly the First World War broke out. The Lourdes Congress had to be canceled; the main organizer Claudius Colas was called up for military service and died a few weeks later, on September 11th, at the age of 29 in the Battle of the Marne.

The "Espero Katolika" no longer appeared during the Second World War, and the other activities of the Catholic Esperantists also came to a complete standstill for several years.

The Protestant Esperanto Movement

Protestant Esperanto speakers had also formed an association at the beginning of this century. The formation of this association is closely connected with the Christian Association of Young Men, or YMCA for short. In 1906 the manager of the YMCA, Baron von Starck, attended the 2nd Esperanto World Congress in Geneva, where he lived in Geneva, which was also the seat of the YMCA. He was so taken with the language that he soon afterwards published very positive articles on Esperanto in some of his association's magazines. Soon, quite a few members of the YMCA learned the international language. In February 1908 the engineer Paul Huebner (1881-1970) from Mülheim am Rhein (a modern part of Cologne) started a monthly magazine with the title "Esperanto en la servo de la Dia Regno" ("Esperanto in the service of the kingdom of God") to surrender. As Hübner emphasized, it should serve as a link between the Esperanto-speaking members of the YMCA, inform about Christian life in all parts of the world and be a "guide to Jesus Christ".

Just as in the Catholic Esperanto movement, in the Protestant movement the establishment of a magazine preceded that of an association. And here, too, the work of editing and managing the magazine rested for a long time on the shoulders of an individual who was willing to take on this work and financial losses. By the end of 1908, Hübner had over 80 subscribers from 12 countries, and from January 1909 he published the magazine under the abbreviated name "Dia Regno", under which it is still published - albeit with occasional interruptions.

At the 7th Esperanto World Congress in Antwerp on August 25, 1911, a gathering of Protestant Esperanto speakers took place. There it was unanimously decided to found an international association of Christian Esperanto speakers. In the following months there were lively correspondence discussions about the statutes and the name of the organization; they finally decided on "Kristana Esperantista Ligo", KEL for short - a name that was changed in 1923 to "Kristana Esperantista Ligo Internacia" (KELI for short). However, the official founding of the KEL did not take place until two years after the meeting in Antwerp, on August 24, 1913 at the Esperanto World Congress in Bern. Paul Huebner was elected first chairman there. However, the KEL or KELI traditionally sees August 25, 1911 as the date of its foundation.

A significant event for Christian Esperanto speakers of all denominations was the publication of the New Testament in Esperanto in 1912. In 1909 an English committee under the direction of Pastor John Cyprian Rust (approx. 1850-1927) began the translation work; A good three years later, "La Nova Testamento de nia Sinjoro kaj Savanto Jesuo Kristo" was published, and the first edition of 5,000 copies was sold out after just a few months.

This also gave the KEL a boost. The cooperation with the YMCA in the organization of Esperanto courses went very well; At the beginning of 1914 the Central Committee of the YMCA even officially recommended "the expansion of Esperanto teaching in all associations of the YMCA". As part of the 10th Esperanto World Congress in Paris, for which 3739 people had registered, another KEL meeting and a meeting with Parisian representatives of the YMCA were to take place. But just like the IKUE congress planned in Lourdes, this Esperanto World Congress could not take place either. And just as with the magazine "Espero Katolika", the issue of July / August 1914 was initially the last of "Dia Regno". The First World War brought the activities of Christian Esperanto speakers to an almost complete standstill for a few years.

From the 1st to the 2nd World War

Esperanto was banned in several countries during the First World War, in France e.g. from 1916, and almost everywhere the number of Esperanto courses and events fell significantly. Only 163 people - almost exclusively from the USA and Canada - took part in the 11th Esperanto World Congress in San Francisco in 1915.In neutral Switzerland, the Esperanto World Federation, whose seat was in Geneva, was now mainly busy sending on tens of thousands of personal letters between family members and friends from hostile countries. The "initiator" of Esperanto, Ludwig Zamenhof, died of heart failure on April 17, 1917 in Warsaw after a serious illness.

Information on the activities of Christian Esperanto speakers during the First World War is not easy to find. What is remarkable, however, is information from the book "Historio de Esperanto" by Edmond Privat, according to which the World Committee of the YMCA "had thousands of small Esperanto textbooks distributed to prisoners of war in various countries".

In 1917 Catholic pacifists founded the "Mondpacligo Blanka Kruco" ("World Peace League White Cross"), which used Esperanto for its international contacts.

From 1920 the magazines "Espero Katolika" and "Dia Regno" appeared again. Years of rapid change followed, full of ups and downs. During this time, other Christian Esperanto magazines and associations were founded; The "Internacio Katolika" (IKA) should be mentioned here, the establishment of which was initiated by the pastor and martyr Max Josef Metzger (1887-1944), known as the "pioneer of ecumenism". Even though it was founded in 1920 as part of the Esperanto World Congress in The Hague, the IKA deliberately avoided the word "Esperanto" in its name, as it appealed more than the IKUE to Catholics who did not speak Esperanto and perhaps not even themselves wanted to learn. From 1921 to 1924 Metzger published the Esperanto-language magazine "Katolika Mondo" in Graz.

In the autumn of 1926, a good 12 years after the New Testament, the complete Bible (but still without the Deuterocanonical books) was published in Esperanto translation in London. Ludwig Zamenhof himself translated the Old Testament from Hebrew. But although he had already completed this work in 1915, the manuscript was only able to get to England after the First World War, where a Bible committee dealt with the review, correction and linguistic alignment of the Old with the New Testament from 1919 to 1926. Two Quaker women, the sisters Priscilla (1833-1931) and Angerina Peckover (1841-1927), had agreed to finance the publication. 5,000 copies of the Esperanto Bible had sold within five years, and Christians of all denominations praised the translation for its clarity and comprehensibility.

The "Londona Biblio" has been reprinted over and over again with a few corrections. An ecumenical translation of the Bible initiated by the Italian pastor Angelo Duranti is in preparation; a modern translation of the four Gospels by the Dutch classical philologist Pastor Gerrit Berveling was published in Brazil in 1992. In 1997 the entire Esperanto Bible including the deutero-canonical books appeared on CD-ROM.

While highs and lows alternated in the 20s, in the Christian Esperanto movement in the 30s the downs - the problems and catastrophes - outweighed each other. In 1931 the Catalan pastor Juan Font Giralt was elected chairman of the IKUE; From the following year he also took over the editing of "Espero Katolika". But at the end of 1934 Font Giralt fell seriously ill, so that "Espero Katolika" was now being edited in the Netherlands. In 1936 Font Giralt was doing better again - but then the Spanish civil war broke out, which also brought persecution of priests with it. Juan Font Giralt died a cruel martyr's death: on August 17, 1936, his hands were hacked off and his body burned.

Let us now take another look at the Protestant Esperanto movement. In 1932, after a break of several years, the magazine "Dia Regno" appeared again, still under the editorship of Paul Huebner, who was unable to work regularly for his cause in the 1920s for personal, professional and financial reasons. In the Netherlands in particular, the Esperanto language was now gaining popularity, which not least benefited the associations KELI and IKUE.

The situation was more problematic in Germany, where Adolf Hitler came to power in early 1933. As is well known, unfortunately, a lot of German Christians were initially rather positive towards National Socialism, and so it is not surprising that Paul Huebner also pointed out to foreign readers in the magazine "Dia Regno" No. 4/1933 that in Germany now "the atheistic Wave stopped "and" Christianity saved ". Huebner expressed his confidence that "in some time our state organizations in Germany will certainly recognize the value of Esperanto and support the movement again".

But his optimism was bitterly disappointed: at the beginning of 1936, the following order, signed by Martin Bormann, the staff leader of the Fuehrer's deputy, was issued: With a decree of June 20, 1936, the Esperanto associations in Germany were finally asked to dissolve themselves if they wanted to avoid being forcibly broken up. Since then, any activity for IKUE or KELI has been banned in Germany. The activities of the KELI had to be relocated to Sweden and the Netherlands.

Towards the end of the 1930s, both "Espero Katolika" and "Dia Regno" were published in the Netherlands. With the outbreak of war, both magazines could no longer reach a large number of their readers. The "Espero Katolika" from January / February 1940 was the last edition before the end of the war. On May 10, 1940, German troops occupied the Netherlands, and in February 1940 the last edition of "Dia Regno" appeared there, because in March Esperanto was expressly banned there too. However, the work of the Christian Esperantists did not come to a complete standstill during World War II: From 1941 to 1945, seven editions of a "Provizora Dia Regno" were sent from Sweden, but only a small part of the addressees actually reached them.

In the spheres of influence of Hitler and Stalin, even Esperantists were not spared the atrocities of these dictators. In Germany, quite a few Esperanto speakers were arrested and taken to a concentration camp for practicing this language alone; others were murdered primarily because of their Jewish origins or their general commitment to pacifism. The three children of Zamenhof, all of whom were arrested in January 1940, are also among the victims of National Socialism. Zamenhof's only son Adam (born 1888) was shot immediately afterwards; the daughters Sofia (born 1889) and Lidia (born 1904) were transferred from the Warsaw ghetto to Treblinka in 1942 and murdered there in August and October of the same year. The Esperantist and founder of the Una Sancta movement, Max Josef Metzger, was arrested in 1943 on the pretext of treason and cooperation with the enemy and executed on April 17, 1944.

The Soviet dictator Stalin was suspicious of all people who had international contacts, and this included in particular the Esperanto speakers. According to various estimates, 2,000 to 30,000 Esperanto speakers were sentenced to death and executed, mostly on the pretext of espionage, during the "Great Purge" in 1937/38. The victims of Stalin also include important Esperanto writers and Esperantologists such as Vladimir Varankin (1902-1937) and Ernest Dresen (1892-1837).

the post war period

In the western countries the Christian Esperanto associations IKUE and KELI were able to regroup very soon after the end of the war. From 1946 the magazines "Espero Katolika" and "Dia Regno" appeared again regularly, and Protestant Esperanto speakers soon realized an old plan: in the summer of 1948 the first KELI congress took place in Tostarp, Sweden. Previously they had met primarily in the context of the Esperanto World Congress and held a KELI meeting there, but the first own congress was a success in every respect, so that one did not want to do without such a meeting in the future. A "KELI Congress" has therefore been held almost every year since 1948.

After an 11-year hiatus, Catholic Esperanto speakers met again at their own congress in 1950; it was the 22nd and at the same time (after 1913 and 1935) the third that took place in Rome.

The situation in Eastern Europe remained problematic. Here the associations IKUE and KELI were suspicious of the totalitarian regimes in two ways. Often the application and dissemination of Esperanto was already undesirable; In the GDR, for example, an Esperanto association was not allowed to be founded again until 1965. And of course the suppression of religious activities also affected the Christian Esperanto associations. The situation was still the most favorable in Poland, where in 1957 the government at least allowed the import of the magazine "Espero Katolika". But for a long time it was impossible for Christian Esperanto speakers from East and West to work together more closely. So it is not surprising that in the 50s and 60s all IKUE and KELI congresses took place in western countries.

After the 2nd Vatican Council emphasized the ecumenical obligation of the Catholic Church, the first joint congress of the two associations took place in Limburg an der Lahn in 1968; it was at the same time the 32nd congress of the IKUE and the 21st KELI congress.

In the same year, the "Prague Spring" encouraged the Czech IKUE members and members of the Hussite Church to consider organizing an Ecumenical Esperanto Congress in their country. It was to take place in Brno in the summer of 1970. But after the Soviet troops marched in, a "normalization process" soon began, and an international congress of Christian Esperantists was unacceptable to the new government. The organizers had to cancel the congress a few weeks before it began; he was finally relocated to Klagenfurt at short notice, but only a few of the registered participants from Eastern Europe managed to get an Austrian visa in time.

The Czech IKUE members were able to meet at their annual tent camps for a while - but only until the summer of 1977, when the police disbanded the 9th Catholic Esperanto tent camp in Herbortice and arrested the organizers Miloslav Svacek and Pastor Vojtech Srna. Shortly afterwards the Czech IKUE section was dissolved.

The situation was more positive in Poland, where the 37thIKUE Congress could take place. It was the first congress of its kind in a Warsaw Pact country, and at the same time, with around 700 participants, it was the largest IKUE congress to date. Two more times - in 1978 in Varna in Bulgaria and again in 1987 in Czenstochowa - Catholics from East and West met at an IKUE congress in an Eastern European country before the fall of the iron curtain.

The downfall of the totalitarian regime brought the Christian Esperantists in Eastern Europe the freedom they had longed for. On May 19, 1990, almost 13 years after it was banned, the Czech IKUE section was re-established. Under the chairmanship of the tireless Miloslav Svacek, it quickly became one of the most active national associations of the IKUE. In Romania and Lithuania, too, very active IKUE regional associations were formed again.

In the present, both organizations, IKUE and KELI, are characterized by continuity and stability. The Wuerttemberg priest Adolf Burkhardt has been chairman of the KELI since 1961 (only interrupted by the years 1975-1981); The corresponding function in IKUE was held by the Italian pastor Diulio Magnani from 1979 to 1995, until he was finally replaced by Antonio de Salvo. In 1995 two IKUE congresses took place for the first time in one year - the 48th congress in Olomouc (Czech Republic) in July and the 49th congress as part of the ecumenical Esperanto congress in Kaunas (Lithuania). Also in 1995, thanks to a large appeal for donations, the IKUE succeeded in acquiring its own domicile in Rome, which now functions as the branch office of the association and the editorial office of "Espero Katolika".

On August 10, 1996, young Catholics from Belgium, Germany, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary founded an IKUE youth organization at the Catholic Esperanto tent camp in Sebranice. It is called "IKUE-Junularo" or "IKUEJ" for short. According to their statutes, their goals are:

  • to help young Esperanto speakers to find a way to God and to the Christian way of life,
  • to promote international understanding and cooperation between young Catholics around the world,
  • to strengthen young Catholics in their faith,
  • Spread Esperanto among Catholics.
Young people from 10 countries joined the organization in its founding year.

The attitude of the church leadership to Esperanto

While the previous chapter dealt primarily with the commitment of priests and laypeople to the international language, the attitude of the church leadership - especially the Catholic one - to Esperanto will now be examined in more detail.

The "Lexicon for Theology and Church" from 1959 closes its article on Esperanto with the words "The popes since Pius X (and numerous Card. And Bishops) have welcomed and promoted the E. movement". Indeed, there is much to suggest that almost all popes in this century viewed the Esperanto movement with friendly benevolence. In the early 1930s, the title page of "Espero Katolika" always featured the words "Honorita per apostola beno de Papo Pio X, 27 junio 1906, kaj de Papo Benedikto XV, 20 aßgusto 1920, kaj de Papo Pio XI, 11 octobro 1924 ". There is no doubt that these popes actually donated their apostolic blessing to the "Espero Katolika". In the past decades, however, numerous concrete words of several popes have been quoted again and again, although no really reliable source can be given for them.

This is what it says in a leaflet that the German IKUE section published on the occasion of the Katholikentag in Karlsruhe in 1992: In the book "Pri internacia lingvo dum jarcentoj" by Isai Dratwer, however, it says:

In the first case, no Esperanto advertising pamphlet from 1949 is given as the source, in the second case. Due to the similarity of these statements, it is obvious that the exact wording and the exact name of the author of one of the two quotations was falsified; it is possible that neither of the two quotations is real.

The first statement by a Pope on Esperanto, which can also be documented by the "Osservatore Romano" (its edition of August 15, 1975), comes from Pope Paul VI. During a general audience on St. Peter's Square on August 13, 1975, he addressed the following words to the participants of the 36th IKUE Congress: Two years later, the 37th IKUE Congress, already mentioned, took place in Czenstochowa. The patron was Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, who later became Pope John Paul II. In his message of greeting to the Congress, Cardinal Wojtyla wrote: "As Jesus Christ prayed for unity for his disciples (Jn 17:11), I too pray in the name of the Church in Your intention. A Belief and a Love may help you into the fragmented world a Flock under one Unite shepherds. A supranational language - Esperanto - may also serve effectively in this noble goal. "Wojtyla had promised to celebrate a mass in Esperanto at the congress; however, he was temporarily unable to attend because of the funeral of the Archbishop of Poznan, Antoni Baraniak.

After his election as head of the Catholic Church, almost 13 years passed before John Paul II became the first Pope to speak Esperanto publicly. The occasion was the 6th World Youth Day in Czestochowa in 1991, to which more than a million participants from all over the world had traveled. Both in his welcoming address on August 14th and at the closing meeting the following day, the Holy Father used Esperanto for the first time in addition to other foreign languages.

The texts of these addresses are based on the "Osservatore Romano" of August 22, 1991: Almost two years later, in the summer of 1993, John Paul II gave his apostolic blessing to the World Esperanto Congress in Valencia. A German translation of his greeting can be found in the magazine "Ökumenisches Esperanto-Forum" No. 13 (1993): On April 3, 1994, Pope John Paul II spoke his Easter greeting for the first time in Esperanto before the blessing 'urbi et orbi' with the words 'Felichan Paskon en Kristo resurektinta' (Osservatore Romano, April 5-6, 1994). In the same year the Christmas greeting 'Dibenitan Kristnaskon kaj prosperan novan jaron' followed. Since then the Holy Father has repeated these greetings every year; even in 1995, when he could only speak his Christmas greetings in Italian and French because of a fit of weakness, Esperanto was on his list.

During a general audience in St. Peter's Square on September 3, 1997, Pope John Paul II greeted the participants of the 50th IKUE Congress directly in Esperanto. The theme of the congress was "Go about it and make all the nations your disciples" (Mt 28:19). The words of the Holy Father, printed in Esperanto and Italian in the Osservatore Romano of September 4, 1997, are reproduced here in the German translation from the Ecumenical Esperanto Forum No. 27: But the Catholic Esperanto movement is not only recognized directly through words of popes obtained from the Vatican. As a result of the reform of the liturgy decided by the Second Vatican Council, Esperanto was first partially recognized as a liturgical language in April 1966 and then fully in July 1968. In November 1990 the Vatican finally approved the texts for the celebration of Holy Mass in Esperanto. A commission headed by the Warsaw Auxiliary Bishop Wladyslaw Miziolek had prepared the Esperanto texts. Since summer 1995 the "Meslibro kaj Legajharo por dimanchoj kaj festoj" ("Missal and Lectionary for Sundays and Holidays") has been available in two attractively bound volumes.

On January 11, 1992 the IKUE was officially recognized as a community of believers by the Vatican by decree of the Pontifical Council for Laity.

The use of Esperanto by Vatican Radio since 1977 represents a very significant recognition in practice. We will go into more detail on these broadcasts in the following chapter.

It is interesting to examine whether there are also negative comments about Esperanto from the Vatican. Some hints can be found in newspaper articles. The Catholic news agency KNA wrote on February 2, 1995 in connection with the use of Esperanto by Pope John Paul II: "The Catholic Church initially distrusted artificial language. Its inventor was suspected of being a Freemason, among other things." And in a report in the magazine "Christ in der Gegenwart" on September 24, 1995 about the publication of the missal in Esperanto: "The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship had to overcome considerable resistance at first - but then allowed the Esperanto translation of the Roman missal."

The "considerable resistances" are explained in the missal itself. There you can find the document of the Congregation for Divine Services and the Sacraments "Norms for the Celebration of Mass in Esperanto" of March 20, 1990 in Italian and Esperanto. It refers to the circular "Decem iam annos" of June 5, 1976, according to which Esperanto is "not a language spoken by a people" and therefore "does not have the properties to be considered a liturgical language".

Regarding the "suspicion" of Zamenhof as a Freemason, it can be said that there are no clear indications for this, although the life and work of Zamenhof have been researched in great detail.

Let us now turn to the attitude of bishops and cardinals to Esperanto. In Germany, bishops have often written very friendly greetings on the occasion of events from the Esperanto world, for example Archbishop Johannes Joachim von Degenhard at the European Esperanto Congress in 1977 in Paderborn or the Bishop of Speyer, Anton Schlembach, on the 100th anniversary of the language (See the brochure published on this occasion by the Saarland Esperanto Association). In Freiburg, Bishop Oskar Saier recognized the diocesan working group of the IKUE in 1989 as a Catholic community; four years later, the same recognition took place in Speyer by Bishop Anton Schlembach. Since the activities of the IKUE in Germany have so far been limited to very few dioceses, recognition of the German IKUE section by the German Bishops' Conference is currently not possible; in other countries (e.g. in 1991 in the Czech Republic and 1993 in Slovakia) the corresponding recognition has already taken place.

In several countries there are bishops who speak Esperanto themselves and often celebrate masses in it. The Bishop of Eisenstadt (Austria), Dr. Paul Iby has been an IKUE member for many years.The Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, learned and used Esperanto as a teenager. At the 1995 IKUE congress in Olomouc, Vlk celebrated a mass in Esperanto. In his sermon he emphasized: Even more often than Cardinal Vlk, the Bishop of Hradec Králové, Karel Otcenásek, attends Esperanto events in order to encourage the participants to advocate better understanding.

In their statements about Esperanto, church dignitaries often limit themselves to recognizing the contribution this language makes to international understanding and to the rapprochement of the faithful. When it comes to the question of whether one should bring about concrete changes in the church and the world, one is more cautious.

But it was precisely here that the Romanian Auxiliary Bishop György Jakubinyi (who was later appointed Archbishop of Alba Iulia in 1994) went one step further: At the European Special Synod in the Vatican in November 1991, Jakubinyi openly advocated Esperanto as the new church language. The Catholic news agency KNA reported on this on December 1, 1991: Numerous Catholic magazines all over the world reported on Jakubinyi's proposal, who repeated his plea for Esperanto in a forum "Paths to partnership with Central and Eastern Europe" in 1994 at the Catholic Day in Dresden. Should his suggestion be heard, the following words of the Polish Cardinal Stefan Wyszinski, uttered to the then IKUE chairman Diulio Magnani at the beginning of the 1970s, could prove to be prophetic: "At the 2nd Vatican Council Latin suffered a crisis. .. Esperanto will be spoken at the next council. "

5. The use of Esperanto among believers