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At Pope Benedict’s announcement, reporter’s Latin skills lead to a scoop

Defenders of classical education and lovers of Latin the world over have a new hero in Giovanna Chirri. The reporter for the Italian news service ANSA was one of the few journalists listening to the pope speak in Latin at an “extremely banal” Vatican ceremony Monday when her knowledge of ablatives and accusatives came in handy.

“He kept speaking in Latin,” Chirri said in a video on ANSA’s Web site. “Then he said that he had important news for the future of the church, that he was becoming old.” She said her ears perked up, and “immediately you could understand that he was announcing his resignation.”

Chirri said that when the Vatican’s former second in command, Angelo Sodano, followed the pope by calling his statement “a bolt of lightning in a clear blue sky,” she knew she had heard correctly. After nervously sending her story, she said, she became saddened by the pope’s decision.

“I started crying,” she said in the video. “This is probably not correct for a reporter, but it’s what happened.”

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