Latin's long lost its status as the world's lingua franca, but until recently, Vatican visitors were able to hear some cardinals converse in what remains the church's official language.
But according to Reginald Foster, the Vatican's top Latinist, the sounds of Rome's days of glory can rarely be heard in the eternal city these days.
"The cardinals mostly speak Italian now," he told Reuters news service. "Most of them studied here so they're comfortable with it....I joke with cardinals in Latin...and most don't laugh."
Foster added that many church leaders also use French and German to communicate. That could make things easy for Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who has been mentioned as a possible successor to Pope John Paul II.
According to Foster, Ratzinger is one of the only remaining fluent Latin speakers. The Bavarian native, however, has a clear advantage over others: Back home, people use "servus," the Latin word for slave, to say good-bye. And "Prost," the German word for "Cheers," comes from prosit, Latin for "may it become."