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LATIN-FOSTER Oct-17-2006 (600 words) xxxi

Rome university cancels popular Latin courses taught by U.S. priest

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- Snippets of Virgil's Latin poetry interspersed with the loud guffaws of U.S. Carmelite Father Reginald Foster will not be heard bouncing down the hallways this year at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University.

Father Foster, who has translated documents into Latin for four popes, told Catholic News Service Oct. 17 that his popular Latin courses at the university had been canceled.

A secretary for the university's academic vice rector told CNS that Father Foster had not been fired and that the classes had only been suspended for this academic year.

Father Foster said he received notice on the evening of Oct. 14, just two days before courses were set to begin, in an e-mail from the university's academic vice rector, Jesuit Father Sergio Bastianel. Father Foster said the e-mail said he and his students were not allowed to use the university's classroom Oct. 16 when classes were scheduled to start.

A few days before he received the e-mail notice, he said some students had been telling him that his course was no longer advertised on the university's schedule and that personnel had "refused to register students for the courses."

Father Bastianel was unavailable for comment when contacted by CNS Oct. 17, but he had relayed to his staff reasons behind the university's decision.

Father Foster's Latin classes had been suspended, staffers said, because each course had not reached the minimum requirement of 15 registered, paying students. Some other classes had been suspended this academic year for the same reason, the staffers said.

Though Father Foster's Latin classes at the university had been enormously popular, most students had not been paying for the course, according to the staffers and Father Foster.

The priest said the lack of registered students "is my fault for the simple reason that I told the students if you want to come for Latin, I will teach you ... and of course they're not (registering) and they're not paying."

Typically, school records would show that only three out of 65 students paid and "that's what (the university) didn't like," he said.

Students had been taking advantage of the Milwaukee-born priest's open-door, free-for-all instruction for the past 20 years, he said, and now that he is freed from duties at the university this year, he wants to set up and run his own informal Latin academy. Courses will be gratis, he said.

He announced his plans to about 150 students who showed up for the canceled Latin classes Oct. 16 at the university.

"We sat out in the corridor ... and I said, 'Listen friends, they say classes are canceled, but they're not canceled. They're going to be continued in a week or so in another location,'" said Father Foster.

He said students responded with "clapping and screaming" in excitement over the announcement.

While Father Foster said he still has to decide where the lessons will be held, he said he has received numerous offers from groups and associations, including a Jewish school in downtown Rome that has an auditorium that can fit 40-50 students.

Father Foster, who works in the Latin-language section of the Vatican's Secretariat of State, started teaching at Gregorian University in 1975. The university quietly dropped its school of Latin literature in 2002, and Father Foster's courses were moved to the university's department of languages.

Father Foster also stars in a short weekly Vatican Radio feature called, "The Latin Lover," in which he extols the beauty of Latin and often laments its decline in the church.


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