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Among the international hubbub that has surrounded the pope’s decision to quit, there is a salutory lesson for anyone who did not pay attention in class.

Italy’s news agency ANSA beat the rest of the world with the historic scoop, and it is all because of their Vatican reporter’s grasp of Latin.

Our correspondent in Rome, Alberto de Filippis asked Giovanna Chirri what happened.

“When I heard the phrase ‘in a serious state of health’ I began to understand that something was going on,” she explained. “I was sitting at my computer, my legs shaking. I had understood that that the pope had resigned. He had said it in Latin. One part of me said: ‘No, you can’t have understood it correctly’ and another part said: ‘That’s exactly what he said’.

“I looked around for confirmation, but nobody had understood. Then Cardinal Sodano spoke in Italian saying: ‘Holiness, your decision has stunned us like a clap of thunder’.”

“I wrote: ‘B16 – my shorthand for Benedict XVI – has announced his resignation which will take effect on February 28.’ A phrase of less than 140 characters. And yes of course, I understood the historical significance of his words.”

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