Histoire culturelle de l'Europe

Brian P. Bennett

Esperanto: One Language, Many Religions



Parmi les principales lingua francas du monde, certaines sont étroitement liées à des religions particulières – ainsi, le latin pour le catholicisme, l’arabe pour l’islam, le sanscrit pour l’hindouisme, etc. L'espéranto représente un contrepoint intrigant à ce paradigme. En tant que langue officielle promulguée en 1887, il a attiré l'attention d’une variété étonnante de culte, en particulier de ceux – du Vatican au culte raëlien des OVNIS – ayant des aspirations à l’universalité. En s'appuyant sur les domaines de la religion comparée et de la sociolinguistique, cet article revient sur la contextualisation européenne de l'espéranto. L’auteur met en regard plusieurs interprétations religieuses de la langue en plaçant l’accent sur deux idéologies religio-linguistiques, gouvernementale d’une part, ecclésiastique de l’autre. Une analyse plus attentive des textes liturgiques catholiques romains et orthodoxes russes révèle des réceptions différentes de l'espéranto dans les traditions ecclésiastiques apparentées.


Some of the world’s major lingua francas are closely identified with particular religions – Latin and Catholicism, Arabic and Islam, Sanskrit and Hinduism, and so on. Esperanto offers an intriguing counterpoint to this pattern. An artificial auxiliary language promulgated in 1887, it has attracted attention from an extraordinary array of religions, typically those with universalistic aspirations, ranging from the Vatican to the Raelian UFO cult. Drawing on the fields of comparative religion and sociolinguistics, this article situates Esperanto in its European context. It discusses different religious interpretations of the language and isolates two leading religiolinguistic ideologies: the governmental and the ecclesiastical. A closer look at Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox liturgical texts reveals differing receptions of Esperanto in kindred ecclesiastical traditions.

Texte intégral

This project had an unusually long gestation period. I wish to express my gratitude to Lee Miller, Humphrey Tonkin, Ionel Oneț, and Federico Gobbo for their instruction and advice; and to the staffs of the Esperanto Museum in Vienna, the Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, and the Universal Esperanto Association office in Rotterdam, for help in accessing religious materials in their collections.

1In 1887 L. L. Zamenhof, a Jewish eye doctor living in the Russian Empire published a booklet promoting a newly confected Internacia Lingvo (international language). Zamenhof wrote under the pseudonym Doctor Esperanto (one who is hoping), and the language quickly became known by that moniker. It is by far the most successful constructed language in the world. Along the way, it has elicited many different reactions. Some devotees hail Esperanto as a solution to the problem of Babel, while despots like Stalin and Hitler attacked it as a cosmopolitan danger. Some conflate it with fictional creations such as Tolkien’s Elvish or Star Trek’s Klingon. Others have sought to harness Esperanto for their own cause, be it vegetarianism, pacifism, or socialism. Zamenhof’s invention has always been a kind of Rorschach test – a beautiful bridge across cultures or a linguistic Frankenstein, a ‘dangerous language’ or a punch line.

2Some scholars shy away from studying Esperanto, perhaps fearing a kind of guilt-by-association. As Edwards say, « for many, both within and without academia, the whole idea of constructed or ‘artificial’ languages immediately suggests a sort of linguistic lunatic fringe, or, at best, profoundly misguided enthusiasm. Esperanto and other languages like it are seen as the fantasy creations of eccentrics and cranks1. » But for those interested in the interconnections between religion and language, Zamenhof’s creation represents a fascinating case study. Esperanto is a lingua franca or vehicular language (langue véhiculaire) used to communicate by people who speak different mother tongues. But it is a planned or constructed language – the first religiously significant one of its kind.

3Moreover, some of the great lingua francas of the world are closely identified, historically and ideologically, with specific religions. Latin expanded with Catholic Christianity, Arabic with Islam, Pali with Theravada Buddhism, and so on2. There are qualifications to be made of course (Catholics have valued Greek and Hebrew, and Buddhists Sanskrit), but in general the relationship might be characterized as monogamous. That is, there has been an exclusive, one-to-one relationship between the language and the faith tradition. Esperanto is different. It has had many ‘suitors’ – religions that have turned to the language for its perceived global potential. For example, The Legion of Good Will, founded in 1950 and affiliated with the curious pyramidal Temple of Good Will in Brasília, has a Department of Esperanto, the goal of which is « to get the Unrestricted and Ecumenical message of the Organization across the whole world, employing to this end the international language as a powerful tool towards unity3. »

4Other religious groups have been similarly intrigued by the possibility of Esperanto as a vehicle to transcend barriers, disseminate their teaching, and help bring about a more just and harmonious world. A survey of religious literature in Esperanto spans a host of religious groups, eastern and western, big and small, famous and obscure, including Anthroposophy, Bogomilism, Buddhism, Christadelphianism, Danovism, Mormonism, Rosicrucianism, and Tolstoyanism. In many of these examples, it seems, things never progressed from inspirational pamphlets to actual practices. But one of the most notable cases where this did happen is Catholicism, the largest branch of the largest religion in the world. Catholic prayerbooks in Zamenhof’s invented language appeared already in the 1890s. The Mass, the central ritual of the faith, can be (and has been) celebrated in Esperanto.

5Despite these noteworthy points, Esperanto has been completely ignored in the field of religious studies. Things are not much better in other disciplines. Though some works in interlinguistics (the subbranch of linguistics concerned with constructed languages and related phenomena) do touch on religious matters, their main concerns lie elsewhere4. Cultural historians and social scientists have made valuable contributions to our understanding of Esperantism as a social and cultural phenomenon, but again, their focus is not on religion per se5. General overviews do not add much beyond lists of religious organizations somehow connected to the movement6. The following account is intended to help fill in some gaps and provide a conspectual framework for future research.

6The first section describes Esperanto and sketches Zamenhof’s own religious views. The second part looks at different religious approaches to Esperanto. Since something more concrete than “approach” is needed to serve as the point of comparison, I introduce a sociolinguistic model of language policy. Though such a technocratic term may seem at odds with the mythopoeic world of religion, language policy may be simply defined as « language arrangements », the ways that « […] human beings have acquired, manipulated and negotiated language varieties to further their purposes, to consolidate their groups and to celebrate their individual characters7. » Like schools, governments, and other entities, religious organizations have policies involving an implicit or explicit ensemble of ideologies, rules, and practices regarding language8. These determine which varieties are used for which purposes (public worship, private prayer, catechesis, missionary work, etc.). For example, a sacred language such as Sanskrit or Church Slavonic may be required in liturgical contexts, with vernaculars tolerated or preferred in educational ones9. Building on this model, I propose a provisional typology of Esperantic language policies, distinguishing what I term the governmental, exemplified in different ways by the Bahá’í Faith and the International Raelian Movement, and the ecclesiastical, represented by Roman Catholicism and Russian Orthodoxy. The third section takes a closer look at the Catholic and Orthodox experiences in the twentieth century, illuminating important differences regarding the place of Esperanto in these cognate traditions.

7Though Esperanto is an international phenomenon, it has a distinctly European complexion. Calvet refers to the « striking Eurocentrism » of universal language schemes in general10. Esperanto itself is a bricolage of European linguistic elements11. Furthermore, the European landscape is dotted with hundreds of lieux de mémoire – statues, plaques, parks, street names – dedicated to Zamenhof and Esperanto (France has 133, Poland -107, Italy - 82, Hungary - 74, Spain - 73, Bulgaria - 68, Germany - 62, Netherlands - 47, Austria - 26, Czech Republic - 26)12. As far as religion goes, Esperanto began in a Jewish milieu in late Imperial Russia, attracted the attention of many different groups including a French UFO cult, and ended up having its biggest impact in Vatican City. I focus on selected aspects of this European story, leaving to the side important religious expressions of Esperantism in Asia13 and elsewhere.

Zamenhof’s Planned Language and Religion

8A confusing welter of terms has been applied, singly or in combination, to languages like Esperanto: invented, artificial, auxiliary, synthetic, interlanguage, world language, and so on. Alas, there is no consensus in scholarly usage14. Limiting the discussion to Anglophone sources, the authoritative Ethnologue database classifies Esperanto as a constructed language15, though that designation is often restricted to languages, like Elvish or Klingon, which have been created for literature or film. Some use the term artificial, while others reject that label as pejorative and potentially misleading insofar as it seems to lump Esperanto together with special mathematical or computer languages16. Leading scholars including Blanke and Gobbo argue in favor of planned, planned international, or international auxiliary language. Planned languages « propose a rationalised version of an existing natural language, or a hybrid form of several languages. » A further distinction can be made between ‘national’ planned languages (e.g., Modern Hebrew, New Norwegian) and ‘neutral’ ones (e.g., Esperanto, Interlingua)17.

9Calvet distinguishes in vitro vehicular languages like Esperanto from in vivo ones such as Swahili18. This image is suggestive, but just as in-vitro babies grow up to be normal functioning adults, so too Esperanto has become a language used for everything from casual conversation to email correspondence to literature and poetry. Zamenhof believed that Esperanto « must live, grow and advance according to the same laws as those by which all living languages are elaborated »; he did not wish to create « the entire language from head to toe19. » Indeed, most of the vocabulary does not stem from ‘Doctor Esperanto’ himself but from later Esperantists20. Remarkably, Esperanto has evolved from a 40-page booklet to a bona fide community. Though it is notoriously hard to get a headcount for Esperantists, according to one schematic estimate, « ten million people have studied Esperanto, one million have a ‘passive’ competence, one hundred thousand have ‘active’ ability, ten thousand are fluent, and there are a thousand native speakers21. »

10There are said to be about a thousand documented cases of artificial or planned languages. The vast majority originated in Europe – a fact reflected in such names as Auxilia, Communia, Eurolingva, Europeo, Grammatica universale, Interlingua, Mondal, Novial, Occidental, Romanal, Unilingua, Vox Mondiel, and Weltsprache22. Many of these language projects stem from the nineteenth century, a period of multiplying strains of nationalism. At the same time, international mail, telegraph, and rail systems were being put in place but without a corresponding means of international communication23. Calvet observes:

[…] we should stress that the notion of a ‘lingua universalis’ appeared at the moment in history when the use of Latin as a lingua franca declined among the elites of Europe. It was then embodied in numerous projects at another historical moment, when French, which had taken the place of Latin, itself began to decline in that function. In both cases we find the same temptation to resolve the problems of international communication in vitro […]24.

11Latin’s lingering status as a prestigious semiotic resource is reflected in the names of such paper projects as Latin moderno, Latin simplificat, Latinum Universale, and Néo-Latine. It was also important in Esperanto’s birthplace. According to Lindstedt, « Latin was the traditional and symbolic international language highly valued not only by Western European scholars, but also by many intellectuals of the Orthodox countries, and the lands of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had been the main path of Latin to East Europe25. » Indeed, Esperanto has a certain Latinate character. It is written in a modified Latin alphabet.

12Seventy-five percent of the original lexis derives from Romance sources, primarily Latin and French, though the substrate (the grammatical base) is more Slavic and Yiddish26.

13L. L. Zamenhof (1859 -1917) was a product of the Jewish Pale of Settlement in Imperial Russia27. As a youngster he was deeply troubled by the religious, ethnic, and linguistic divisions endemic to his hometown of Białystok – Jews, Catholics, Lutherans, and Orthodox speaking a Babel of Yiddish, Polish, Russian, German, and Lithuanian. After several early attempts, Zamenhof eventually put together Esperanto. It was published in what is referred to as the First Book (Unua Libro), originally in Russian, followed by English, French, German, Hebrew, and Polish versions. From the start, Esperanto was designed to be a helplingvo, an easily learned second language (L2 in the jargon of linguistics). The goal was to supplement, not supplant, mother tongues, thus facilitating interethnic exchange and contributing to amity among peoples.

14Zamenhof was an eye doctor, not a linguist, but he was an accomplished polyglot who handled different languages and scripts in the hurly-burly of the late Russian Empire. He knew or studied Russian, Polish, Yiddish, Hebrew, French, German, Latin, Greek, some English and Lithuanian, as well as the most well-known constructed language of the time, Volapük. He took elements from these diverse sources, devised extensions or new features based on them, and rationalized the results. According to Janton, « Although Esperanto borrows its lexicon from natural languages, its derivation and inflection retain a regularity and a schematic quality that clearly distinguish it from its naturalistic rivals28. » Each letter represents one sound. The stress is always on the penultimate syllable. All nouns end in –o, all adjectives in –a, all adverbs in –e, and all verb infinitives in –i. The suffix –eco indicates an abstract quality, while –ulo denotes a user. For example, sano means ‘health’; sana ‘healthy’ and malsana ‘unhealthy’; malsanulejo ‘hospital’; sane ‘healthily’; sani ‘to be healthy’; saniga ‘healing’; and so on29. The end result? « For many Esperantists, their language is a model of regularity, simplicity and beauty30. »

15The phenomenon of Esperanto has always been marked by two competing impulses: the practical and the spiritual, the utilitarian and the utopian. On the one hand, the language is valued as a neutral instrument for enhancing international travel, diplomacy, and scientific exchange. On the other hand, it symbolizes the hope or realization of global peace, justice, and understanding31. Esperanto as a sign of Progress or Providence – Zamenhof himself embodied these contending orientations. Zamenhof was a pragmatist who thought that an international lingua franca would save time and resources and facilitate travel32. But, in a famous passage, he also wrote, « My Jewishness has been the main reason why, from earliest childhood, I have given my all for a single great idea, a single dream – the dream of the unity of humankind. » This is the ‘internal idea’ (interna ideo) of Esperanto, which Sutton parses as « a nebulously defined humanitarian internationalism33. » It was there from the start – and in some form or another it continues to inspire many devotees of the language to this day. In response to the so-called Jewish Question as well as sociopolitical tensions in the Russian Empire, Zamenhof eventually externalized, as it were, the ‘internal idea’ in proposals for a new religious formation, first called Hilelismo (Hillelism, named after the famous Jewish sage, Hillel) and then Homaranismo (Humanitism or Humankindism), which he envisioned as a neutral auxiliary religion complete with a basic moral code, neutral festivals, hymns, edifying readings, and temples.34

16Many Esperantists have grappled with the tension between idealism and pragmatism. The first cohort, the majority of whom lived in Russia, were inspired by the utopian aspect of Zamenhof’s language project; the second, centered in France, had a more secular and practical mindset. (Some were Catholics wary of Zamenhof’s Homaranismo vision.) A critical juncture occurred at the first congress of Esperantists held in 1905 in Boulogne-sur-Mer, which Zamenhof himself attended. According to the so-called Boulogne Declaration (or Declaration on the Essence of Esperantism), Esperanto is a neutral language which is not intended to intrude into the personal lives of peoples or to replace national languages: « Every other hope or idea which any Esperantist may attach to Esperantism is a purely private matter35. » Since no ideology is officially attached to the language, the way that sacred languages are welded in monocoque fashion to their scriptural traditions (e.g., Sanskrit and Hinduism, or Hebrew and Judaism)36, the door is left open to a variety of religious interpretations and applications.

Religious Appropriations of Esperanto

17Religion has always been a part the Esperanto phenomenon. The First Book of 1887 included a translation of the beginning of Genesis along with the Lord’s Prayer, which was (and still is) often used as a kind of linguistic display text37. Just as Esperanto became linked with a range of political movements and ideologies, from pacificism to socialism38, a host of different religious groups have looked to Esperanto as a special linguistic resource. These assorted interpretations and appropriations may be read as variations on theme of the ‘internal idea’. Just as in music, though, the variations are usually more interesting and important than the original theme, which may be quite banal.

18Sandgren and Nordenstorm’s bibliography of religious literature in Esperanto offers a helpful starting point39. Drawing from their compilation, here are some religions and the number of items (books, articles, pamphlets) from or about that religion composed in Esperanto: Adventism – 6, Anglicanism – 18, Anthroposophy – 2, Bahai’ism – 69, Belism – 10, Bruderhof communities – 13, Buddhism – 90, Danovism – 26, Divine Light – 6, Church of Scientology – 1, Brothers of Charity – 25, Jainism – 1, Hinduism – 12, Islam – 16, Judaism – 24, Catholicism – 448, YMCA – 5, Quakerism – 22, Legion of Goodwill – 6, Lutheranism – 103, Mariavites – 6, Martinus – 43, World Goodwill – 2, Moral Re-Armament – 2, Mormonism – 11, Oomoto – 40, Orthodox church – 17, Universal Thought Circle – 1, Science of Thought – 24, Pentecostals – 35, Pocket Testament League – 3, Protestantism – 60, Raelians – 5, Rosicrucians – 3, Salvation Army – 2, Spiritism – 106, Summit Lighthouse – 1, Swedenborgians – 31, Universal Red Swastika Society – 1, Theosophy – 38, Tolstoyanism – 39, Unitarianism – 8.

19This list is incomplete and outdated but still conveys something of the remarkable range of religious engagements with Esperanto, including ancient belief systems and new religious movements (NRMs), eastern and western traditions, international institutions and individual spiritual writers.

20One way to make sense of the plethora of religious contacts with Esperanto is to compare them in terms of language policy40. A language policy involves three interconnected elements41:

21- Ideologies are more-or-less coherent sets of beliefs about the nature and value of certain language varieties in relation to others. In a religion, ideologies will be related to scriptural, theological, pastoral, ritual, and other factors. Different subgroups (e.g., clergy/laity, progressives/conservatives) may have conflicting views on the matter.

22- Practices involve doing things with certain language varieties. The scope of behaviors in a religion is wider than commonly supposed: praying, chanting, wearing amulets, studying scriptures, performing rituals, educating children or converts, preaching sermons, going on pilgrimage, and so on.

23- Rules refers to the ways that an entity manages or revises its language beliefs and practices. A rule can be an unspoken habit or custom, or a guideline explicitly promulgated in an official directive. Some religions have a clear institutional ‘chain of command’; others do not.

24A language policy, including a religious language policy, does not appear ex nihilo. Rather, it stems from, and continually interacts with, an amorphous ‘linguistic culture’, which Schiffman describes as « the set of behaviours, assumptions, cultural forms, prejudices, folk belief systems, attitudes, stereotypes, ways of thinking about language, and religio-historical circumstances associated with a particular language42. » The language policy and the linguistic culture must in turn be seen in relation to wider external cultural, social, political, and historical trends and forces43.

25Changes in religious language policy do occur – sometimes dramatically – but the ground is usually been prepared for a long time period. For example, against a backdrop of societal modernization and secularization, there was a growing discontent with Latin across parts of the Catholic linguistic culture. The question of Latin’s intelligibility was discussed in diocesan newspapers, learned journals, Sunday schools, and other formal and informal venues. This long-simmering debate eventually resulted in a major policy shift articulated at the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s44. According to Crystal, « No imposed linguistic change has ever affected so many people at once as when Latin was replaced by the vernacular in Roman Catholic Christianity45. » I will return to this topic below.

26Using this model of language policy, it is possible to begin to sort through the heap of religious approaches to Esperanto. How does Esperanto fit into the religion’s language arrangements? Is it just a matter of ideology, or is Esperanto actually used in the religion’s practices – and, if so, which ones? Does the religion have rules for managing Esperanto in its system? Is there a Department of Esperanto?

27Gobbo rightly notes that Esperanto has « attracted the attention of universalistic religions, i.e. religions whose Churches are not linked with certain nations46. » But there are different kinds of religious universalism, not all of which are amenable to Esperanto. For example, Kermani contrasts the European quest for a universal language with the lack of same in Islamic civilization:

Apparently the idea of exploring the possibilities of a perfect language, or of creating one, never became a topic of scientific, philosophical or alchemical research in Arabic-Islamic intellectual history. The Arabs no longer dreamt of finding that language: they had found it. Mankind’s utopian dream of the perfect language, most of them believed and still believe today, is realized in the Quran. It is a linguistic heaven on earth47.

28Though the Quran has been translated into Esperanto for scholastic purposes, there is no way that Zamenhof’s invented language could ever challenge the supreme position of Arabic in Islamic linguistic culture and language policy48.

29Moreover, there are important differences among those religions that have embraced or engaged Esperanto in a serious way. I propose a provisional typology that distinguishes what I call governmental and ecclesiastical universalisms. (A third type – celestial universalism – is found in different forms of Brazilian spiritism, where some claim that Esperanto operates not only on the earthly plane but in the encompassing spirit world. This topic is beyond the scope of the present article49.)

30Governmental. One religion that has long been associated with Esperanto is the Bahá’í Faith, which began in Persia in the nineteenth century and today boasts some 5 million members around the world.

31The central point of Bahá’í ideology is the belief in one God who has progressively revealed Himself through a sequence of Messengers or Manifestations, including Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, and most recently Baháʼu'lláh (1817-1892), the Promised One foretold in the scriptures of the world’s various religions. A second and related theme is the oneness of humanity. Each Messenger speaks spiritual truths for his time and place. The age of Baháʼu'lláh is said to be one of global unification. Bahá’í writings explicitly support the establishment of an international auxiliary language, along with other policies and institutions for a new world order, including universal education, the equal rights of men and women, a uniform system of currency and weights and measures, the equitable distribution of the planet’s resources, and the cooperation of science and religion50.

32There seems to be a natural ‘fit’ between Esperantism and the Bahá’ís Faith. In fact, Zamenhof’s daughter Lidia was a famous convert. She even claimed that Esperanto was created, unbeknownst to its author, under the influence of Baháʼu'lláh51. Furthermore, there is a resemblance between the Bahá’í Faith and her father’s Homaranismo project, with its ecumenical hymns and temples. The Bahá’í Esperanto League (BEL) has been one of the most active participants in the movement.

33That being said, the authoritative writings of the Bahá’í Faith do not anoint Esperanto as the requisite world lingua franca, which « […] could be a natural or constructed, living, extinct, or yet to be invented language52. » Possible candidates include English (which is already a lingua franca among many Bahá’ís), Arabic (the language of the most important works of revelation from the pen of Baháʼu'lláh), Persian (the mother tongue of Baháʼu'lláh as well as that of the largest ethnic group in the religion), Esperanto, or something else altogether53. According to Meyjes, Bahá’í scriptures call for « a global language policy effort without historical precedent. » Baháʼu'lláh declared,

It is incumbent upon all nations to appoint some mean of understanding and erudition to convene a gathering and through joint consultation choose one language from among the varied existing languages, or create a new one, to be taught to the children in all the schools of the world.54

34The key point here is that Esperanto is not appropriated for the internal purposes of Bahá’í theology and liturgy. Rather, the language is relevant in connection with an external decision that will ultimately be made by world leaders.

35Thus, Esperanto figures in the Bahá’í Faith’s linguistic culture (the semi-articulated domain of expectations, biases, ways of thinking, etc.) but not its language policy per se. The Universal House of Justice, the governing body of the religion, has not officially endorsed the language. In fact, it has reminded Bahá’í Esperantists that the idea of an international auxiliary language is more important than any one contender, and that the Faith is broader than Esperanto55.

36Another example of governmental universalism is found in the International Raelian Movement. This ufological religion, usually labeled a ‘secte’ in France or a ‘cult’ in the US, was started by a French journalist and race-car driver, Claude Vorilhon. He claims to have encountered alien beings in 1973 while hiking near the volcanic crater at Clermont-Ferrand. Through a series of revelatory encounters and galactic journeyings, Raël, as he soon came to be called, learned that the Elohim (‘gods’), Yahweh, Satan, Jesus, and other figures from the Bible are actually the names of different aliens who created human beings in a planetary laboratory. The world’s various faith traditions, including Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and ancient Greek mythology, testify, each in its own distorted way, to the activities of these alien ‘creators’.

37This alternative cosmic history allegedly revealed to Raël, the final prophet, is detailed in several books, which were translated into Esperanto: La libro kiu diras la veron (The book which tells the truth, 1974), La eksterteranoj forkondukis min sur sian planedon (Extraterrestrials took me to their planet, 1975), and Akcepti la eksterteranojn (Let’s welcome the extraterrestrials, 1979)56. Esperanto also makes an appearance in Raelian ideology. In addition to divulging the true nature of human history, the alien-creators give instructions, sometimes quite specific, regarding how to re-order human civilization. In the first book, we read the following:

The creation of a new worldwide currency and a common language would help you to establish a world government. The Auvergne dialect is no longer spoken in Clermont-Ferrand, and very soon, French will no longer be spoken in Paris, nor English in London, nor German in Frankfurt. Your scientists and linguists should unite and create a new language, inspired by all languages and made obligatory in all schools of the world, as a second language57.

38In Extra-Terrestrials Took Me to Their Planet, the ‘creators’ impart information regarding society, education, science, sexuality, abortion, government, the arts, childrearing, and the consumption of wine and intoxicants. As for language: “Humanity as a whole must unite to form a world government […] Impose also a new world language on all the school children of the entire world. Esperanto exists, and if no one proposes anything better, choose Esperanto”58.

39Shortly thereafter, however, the ideology shifts. In a book on geniocracy (rule by geniuses), it is stated that one of the most urgent tasks for humankind is the creation of a world language. But now Zamenhof’s Internacia Lingvo is dismissed:

A few candidates, including Esperanto, have already been proposed. Unfortunately, they have all been rooted in Greek and Latin and are thereby totally unacceptable for Asians, who represent over half of humanity. What do the Chinese and Japanese care about Latin roots?59

40This happens to be a common complaint about Esperanto. The language’s European character has inspired more globally inclusive creations like Unish, which draws upon 14 languages including Hindi and Korean, and Pandunia, which is based on English and Chinese with elements of Arabic, Indonesian, and Swahili.60 According to this Raelian text, a new language must be created from scratch by linguists with their computers. It should be taught as a first language to all the children of the world. In the same chapter, Raël says that national anthems and flags should be abolished and replaced with a world anthem and flag.

41As drastically different as they are in other respects, the International Raelian Movement and the Bahá’í Faith reflect a roughly similar relationship to Esperanto. Both approaches are ultimately predicated on the authoritative words of someone deemed to be the latest or culminating figure in a sequence of prophets. In both, there is a sense that humankind has reached a new stage or turning point in its development. Discourses link the international language to other processes and structures needed for this new world order, including such phenomena as universal education, a common currency, the synergy of science and religion, and the abolishment of national flags and anthems. Furthermore, both the International Raelian Movement and the Bahá’í Faith envision the choice of a universal language as something determined by representatives or experts and then disseminated worldwide. The chosen language may or may not be Esperanto. Indeed, in both cases an early enthusiasm gave way to a noncommittal or negative stance.

42In terms of the Raelian and Bahá’í language policies, Esperanto is something exterior to the religion, on par with adopting a world flag or uniform monetary system. This approach stands in contrast to the ecclesiastical type of universalism, to which I now turn.

Esperanto in Roman Catholicism and Russian Orthodoxy

43Catholicism has the most entries in the Esperanto bibliography discussed above. But the tally is even more lopsided, since Franciscans, Piarists, Benedictines, et al. are Catholic religious orders, yet are counted separated. Of course, the religion is also much bigger than most other contenders, so that means there are more people to write in and about Esperanto. Still, developments in the twentieth century bear out the numbers and point to an elective affinity between the religion and the language. The history of the Catholic Esperanto movement is chronicled in Matthias’s indispensable book, Esperanto – The New Latin for the Church and Ecumenism61. Here I simply highlight certain aspects of Esperanto in relation to Catholic linguistic culture and language policy.

44The word catholic (small ‘c’) means universal, and universalism is a pervasive theme in Catholic discourse. The notion of a neutral medium of international communication was (and in modified form, still is) central to Catholic thought and practice. Hence the Church’s longstanding commitment to Latin. As the papal document Veterum Sapientia says: « Of its very nature Latin is most suitable for promoting every form of culture among peoples. It gives rise to no jealousies. It does not favor any one nation, but presents itself with equal impartiality to all and is equally acceptable to all62. » It is perhaps not surprising, then, that Catholics were ‘early adopters’ of Zamenhof’s lingvo internacia, seeing it as a valuable semiotic resource in line with their universalist identity63. The first Catholic prayerbooks in Esperanto appeared already in the early 1890s.

45The first Catholic journal, Espero Katolika (Catholic Hope), started in 1903. It was edited by a young French priest, Fr. Émile Peltier (1870-1909)64. The first issue contains a piece entitled “L’UTILITÉ DE L’ESPERANTO POUR LES CATHOLIQUES.” The author (presumably Peltier) laments that Catholics constitute a single community, yet do not understand each another. “Des millions d’hommes ont la même foi, obéissent au même Père, reçoivent a la même table sainte le corps de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ, et ils ne se comprennent pas entre eux.” Monks and nuns and missionaries are dispersed around the world but are not able to communicate. The churches of the Orient speak a different tongue than the Occident. What utility for the Church if Catholic books could be translated into the international language, if Catholics could speak with one another in international gatherings.

46Of course, no religion is monolithic, and some Catholics feared or disdained Esperanto. For example, in Robert Hugh Benson’s 1907 dystopic novel, Lord of the World, Esperanto is associated with a gray new world order including a godless Religion of Humanity that bears a resemblance to Zamenhof’s proposed Homaranismo. These developments are heroically resisted by the Catholic Church with its traditional lingua franca of Latin65. An editorial in Our Sunday Visitor, a popular American Catholic newsweekly, declared, “From time to time there are groups of imaginative individuals who foresee the time when there will be a so-called ‘universal language.’ Many, lingual monstrosities have been created under various names, such as Volapuk, Esperanto and what not, but Latin remains always the same and unchangeable”66. These are just two small examples of early anti-Esperanto sentiment across the Catholic world.

47The International Union of Catholic Esperantists (Internacia Katolika Unuiĝo Esperantista, IKUE), founded in 1910, became the main ecclesiastical proponent of Esperanto67. Its mission statement comprises four parts

48- to answer Christ’s call: « Go out to the whole world and proclaim the gospel to all creation » [from the Gospel of Mark]

49- to pray and to work in order « that all might be one » [Gospel of John]

50- to give witness to the unity of the church by using the international language Esperanto in the liturgy and in pastoral activities

51- to contribute to understanding, brotherhood and peace among all people

52This program is not the one-world ideology evidenced in Raelian or Bahá’í texts, where an international auxiliary language is bundled with calls for universal education, a common currency, a world flag, and other such measures and markers of globalization. Rather, Esperanto is aligned with the Church’s own universalist aspirations, being clearly linked to two Gospel verses that have long figured prominently in Catholic thinking. This variation of the ‘internal idea’, then, radiates from within the Church’s own traditions outward toward global solidarity.

53Ideology is one thing, praxis another. Speaking of the study of religion in general, Rudolph says, « The preponderate orientation […] toward ‘ideology’—whether mythology, cosmology, or theology—should recede in favor of a greater emphasis on the practical field of the cultus. At least from a historical point of view, cultus stands at the center of any religion. […] It is from practice that mythology derives its religious significance; otherwise, it is only literature68. » This programmatic recommendation is especially relevant when it comes to the question of religion and Esperanto. Ideological expressions are not the same thing as actual practices. There seems to be a lot of religious literature in Esperanto, but not much liturgy. It is noteworthy, therefore, that the IKUE mission statement speaks of using Esperanto « in the liturgy », in public worship.

54The Mass, the ritual retelling and symbolic reenactment of Christ’s Last Supper, is the Catholic practice par excellence. The ritual is celebrated every day and preeminently on Sundays, all around the world, from small chapels to grand cathedrals. Since the epochal change in language policy effectuated at Vatican II, Latin remains the ‘gold standard’ for the official ritual texts of the Mass (the editiones typicae), but translations into many different vernaculars have been authorized by the Vatican. In 1990 the Congregatio de cultu divino et disciplina sacramentorum (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments) gave its approval for an Esperanto translation of the Roman Missal, the official handbook for the Mass. It then took five years before the two-volume 900-page was published: Roma Meslibro. Meslibro kai Legajaro por dimancoj kaj festoj (Roman Missal. Missal and Readings for Sundays and Feast Days), produced by IKUE and the Vatican publishing press, Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

55The Foreword is by Bishop Władysław Miziołek, a longtime supporter of the Esperanto movement. He says that the Meslibro contains readings and prayers for nearly seventy regular Sunday and feast day celebrations, but it also has two Masses that are especially near and dear to the Esperanto community: for peace and justice, and for the unification of all Christians. He concludes by saying:

With joy we present to Catholic Esperantists this Missal in Esperanto, that the celebration of the sacred liturgy, which is the summit and source of church life, may strengthen those to fulfil the command of Jesus Christ: to go out into the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all of creation69.

56Also included in the volume is a copy of the 1990 letter, in Latin, granting official approval from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for an Esperanto translation of the Roman Missal. This text references the rules governing performance of the Esperanto Mass. These different paratextual ingredients mediate between the inside and the outside of the Meslibro. They mark the transition from ideology to praxis. They situate the Esperanto-language Missal in its proper ecclesiastical context70.

57To be able to celebrate Mass in Esperanto, a mere century after the language was invented, is stunning – especially in a slow-moving institution like the Catholic Church. Bishop Miziołek notes that because Esperanto is not a mother tongue (gepatra lingvo), it required special attention from the translators. Yet Esperanto is basically treated like other national languages authorized by the Vatican for liturgical use. It is merely one among many in the Catholic language policy, which has becoming decidedly multilingual since Vatican II.

58Pope John Paul II, who was aware of Esperanto before his pontificate and was an ardent supporter of European and Catholic-Orthodox unity, blessed the Meslibro in 1997. Earlier, in 1994, he had added Esperanto to his multilingual Urbi et Orbi (‘To the City [of Rome] and the World’) Eastertime address, which included a blessing in Italian, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Polish, and Latin71. The words were « Feliĉan Paskon en Kristo resurektinta » (Happy Easter in Christ resurrected)72. Similarly, Vatican Radio has had an Esperanto program since 1977, but this is just one option among some 40 other languages, including Latin73. In these various manifestations of the Catholic linguistic culture and language policy, Esperanto is typically recognized and praised for its ecclesiastical and ecumenical universalism, but for all intents and purposes is treated as just another vernacular in the post-Vatican II multilingual era. It has not become the ‘new Latin for the Church’. As it turns out, this mirrors the language’s broader situation: « Esperanto now is increasingly considered a linguistic tool for communication in a scenario of complex multilingualism, but no longer the one-shot solution for all language problems74. »

59The position of Esperanto in the Russian Orthodox Church presents an interesting contrast to that of Catholicism. Orthodox Christianity is not a single ecclesial organization, but rather a coalition of some fifteen territorially defined churches united in devotion to what they consider authentic Christian Tradition. Orthodox language ideology has typically favored vernaculars like Greek, Arabic, Church Slavonic (often described as an elevated form of Russian), and more recently English. Gobbo’s observation – that Esperanto has « attracted the attention of universalistic religions, i.e. religions whose Churches are not linked with certain nations »  – would suggest that Esperanto and the concomitant ‘internal idea’ would not fit well in the Orthodox ecclesiastical context. However, a few qualifications are in order.

60To begin with, Russian Orthodoxy is not without its universal – or, at least, supranational – aspirations. In the premodern era, some ideologues declared Moscow to be the ‘Third Rome’ behind Rome itself and Constantinople, both of which fell75. Furthermore, Latin played a significant role in Russia’s ‘long’ eighteenth century (1675-1825). Spurred by Peter the Great’s westernizing reforms, the Russian Church turned to Latin and actually gave it pride of place in its seminary curriculum. In fact, by 1800 a prelate could declare: « Our clergymen are regarded by foreigners already as almost illiterate, unable to speak either French or German. Our honor is supported by the fact that we can speak and write Latin76. » Latin played a vital role on the level of ideology (theological tracts, catechisms, sermons, and the like), though it was never incorporated into liturgical or devotional practices, which remained the sacred precincts of Church Slavonic. The point is that the selective appropriation of an international lingua franca was not an outright impossibility in Russian Orthodox language policy. And, indeed, there are a few examples of Esperanto in the prerevolutionary ecclesiastical context.

61Fr. Ivan Shiriaev (1877-1933) was a foundational figure in the early history of Esperanto in Russia. He learned the language as a seminarian and would go on to become a prolific writer and translator. In addition to his own works of fiction, he translated War and Peace and The Brothers Karamazov into Esperanto. He also laid the groundwork for the first encyclopedia of Esperanto, composing nearly 2100 entries. Most important for our purposes is the remarkable fact that he translated the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (the main ritual text of Orthodoxy and the equivalent of the Roman Missal) into Esperanto, though it has never been published77.

62Another fascinating figure is Fr. Innokentii Seryshev (1883-1976). He first heard about Esperanto in 1909. The next year he was granted permission to visit Mt. Athos, the center of Orthodox monasticism. Returning home, he traveled across Germany, Belgium, England, France, Italy, Switzerland, and Austria, using Esperanto along the way. After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, he spent several years in Japan and China before finally settling in Australia. His difficult path was eased by Esperantists in these different locations. Fr. Seryshev was a lifelong devotee of Zamenhof’s language. He was a prolific and polymathic author who churned out books and articles on his native Siberia, Asia, medicine, math, science, philosophy, the Bible, Russian cultural history, and more. He kept up a lively correspondence with some 200 Esperantists in 80 different countries. (Written correspondence was the lifeblood of the Esperanto movement in the pre-internet era.) Closer to home, however, Fr. Seryshev had a strained relationship with his Russian émigré parishioners. During one Easter service, he had the Gospel read in several languages, including Esperanto – an act that scandalized the congregation78.

63Fr. Seryshev’s difficult life points us to a crucial difference between Esperanto’s place in Orthodoxy compared to that of Catholicism: namely, the Bolshevik Revolution and everything that followed from it. During the Soviet era, both the Orthodox Church and the Esperanto movement were at times attacked, co-opted, and marginalized. Many Esperantists and Orthodox believers were killed or languished in the Gulag79. Consequently, it is impossible to know if Esperanto could have ever been accepted more widely within the Russian Church. It seems highly unlikely, though it is worth pointing out that the Esperanto movement did flourish in lands that were historically Orthodox, including Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Romania, in addition to Russia.

64Since the demise of the USSR thirty years ago, Russians have been engaged in a multifaceted cultural reclamation project. The Orthodox Church has returned to a position of societal prominence. Church buildings that had been converted into Soviet warehouses or gymnasiums have been turned back to places of worship. There is renewed interest and pride in customs and traditions that were sidelined or suppressed under Communism. Esperanto’s rich history in Russia has likewise received fresh attention and appreciation.

65A group called the Orthodox Christian Esperanto Roundtable (Kristana ortodoksa rondo esperantista, KORE) started as an online community in 2005. (This is how Esperanto now thrives elsewhere around the world.) An Esperanto translation of the Divine Liturgy appeared in 2015. The Foreword states that the publication is the result of a multiyear project by KORE. It cautions that the text is not a service book for priests but is intended for lay use. The translation is acknowledged to be imperfect, and if the time comes for the actual celebration of the Divine Liturgy in Esperanto, it will have to be corrected and refined80.

66In 2017 this same group sponsored « Russian Esperanto Days », dedicated to Shiriaev’s memory. The theme was « The Idea, Philosophy and Religious Background of Esperanto ». In 2018 the Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the half-ruined church where Shiriaev had served as a priest for 27 years. On this occasion the Gospel was read in the customary Church Slavonic and then in Esperanto81.

67Though the Russian Orthodox linguistic culture has shifted in dramatic ways in the post-Soviet period, it seems highly unlikely that KORE will be able to advance Esperanto within the Moscow Patriarchate the way that IKUE did in the Vatican. For one thing, the Russian Orthodox Church has been contending with a rather divisive language policy issue: namely, whether to translate the Divine Liturgy from hieratic Church Slavonic into a more accessible Russian vernacular version82. Still, these developments – the formation of a roundtable, the translation of the Divine Liturgy – though barely noticeable in the hubbub of contemporary Russia, indicate that the small shoot of Esperantism has sprouted again from the national soil of Russian Orthodoxy.


68When it comes to the question of religion and language, Esperanto occupies a distinctive place. Unlike the almost propriety relationship that obtains between certain faith traditions and their languages (Judaism and Hebrew, Buddhism and Pali), a heterogeneous array of religious groups has expressed an interest in Zamenhof’s planned Lingvo Internacia. Unfortunately, the topic has not received the attention it deserves. In this article I have tried to advance the discussion beyond lists to a more conspectual framework. The results may be distilled to the following interlocking points:

69Though religious groups with universalist aspirations have shown the most interest in Esperanto, not all versions of universalism are the same. A distinction can be made between governmental and ecclesiastical types. Celestial universalism, which could not be discussed here, constitutes a third kind. With elements of Christianity, Brazilian spiritism, and progressive-revelation ecumenism reminiscent of the Bahá’i Faith, the Legion of Good Will, mentioned at the start of this paper, suggests a mixed type83. In other global faiths (e.g., Islam), the potential influence of Esperanto is severely limited.

70It is necessary to analyze the place of Esperanto in relation to a given religion’s (i) defined language policy, (ii) ambient linguistic culture, and (iii) wider historical condition. Language policy comprises ideologies, practices, and rules – all of which can be contested and all of which can change over time in response to external circumstances. Religions are not stable, monolithic, or hermetically sealed phenomena, as the Second Vatican Council and the Bolshevik Revolution make perfectly clear.

71Detailed studies are need in each case. Not surprisingly, Esperanto has fared better in Catholicism than in Orthodoxy. But a closer look complicates the picture. Esperanto’s greatest success is arguably in Rome, yet its universalism has been muted in the Church’s post-Vatican II multilingualism. Although Esperanto would seem out of place in the more nationalist ethos of Russian Orthodoxy, some ecclesiastics in the pre-revolutionary period did take up Zamenhof’s planned language and there are signs of a renewed interest among a small cadre of Orthodox members in post-Soviet Russia.

72Finally, various approaches in tandem – comparative, historical, literary, sociolinguistic, etc. – are needed to comprehend the ongoing religious significance of Esperanto.


1 John Edwards, Minority Languages and Group Identity: Cases and Categories, Amsterdam/Philadelphia, John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2010, p. 173.

2 Brian P. Bennett, Sacred Languages of the World: An Introduction, Chichester, Wiley, 2018.

3 https://www.boavontade.com/en/news/good-will-communications-network-celebrates-126th-anniversary-esperanto

4 See, e.g., Federico Gobbo, Introduction to Interlinguistics, Munich, GRIN Publishing, 2020, p. 127. The religious dimension is passed over in the otherwise compendious work of Věra Barandovská-FrankInterlingvistiko. Enkonduko en la sciencon pri planlingvoj, Poznań, Wydawnictwo Rys, 2020.

5 See, e.g., Roberto Garvía, Esperanto and its Rivals: The Struggle for an International Language, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015, p. 112-119; Peter G. Forster, The Esperanto Movement, The Hague; Paris; New York, Mouton Publishers, 1982, is a classic work.

6 Pierre JantonEsperanto: Language, Literature, and Community, ed. Humphrey Tonkin, trans. Humphrey Tonkin, Jane Edwards, and Karen Johnson-Weiner, [n. p.], State University of New York Press, 1993, p. 116-118; Nikolao Gudskov, Epitomo de Esperantologio, Moscow, REU-“Impeto”, 2002, p. 82-83.

7 Sue Wright, Language Policy and Language Planning, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, p. 2

8 Bernard Spolsky, Language Policy, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 2004, 3 et passim.

9 See, e.g., Anthony Liddicoat, « Choosing a Liturgical Language: Language Policy and the Catholic Mass », Australian Review of Applied Linguistics 16, 2, 1993, p. 123-141.

10 Louis-Jean Calvet, Language Wars and Linguistic Politics, New York, Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 196.

11 Jouko Lindstedt, « Esperanto – an East European Contact Language? ». Available online: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/14920387.pdf. Cf. Mikael Parkvall, « How European is Esperanto? A typological study », Language Problems & Language Planning, 34, 1, 2010, p. 63-79.

12 Hugo Röllinger, Monumente pri Esperanto, Ilustrita Dokumentaro pri 1044 Zamenhof/Esperanto-Objektoj en 54 Landoj de la 5 Kontinentoj, Cent jaroj de stratoj, placoj, monumentoj, bustoj, kulturcentroj, tabuloj, parkoj, asteroidoj k.a. 1896-1996, Rotterdam, Universala Esperanto-Asocio, 1997, p. 12.

13 See, e.g., Ulrich Lins, « Esperanto as language and idea in China and Japan », Language Problems & Language Planning, 32, 1, 2008, p. 47-60.

14 Detlev Blanke, « The Term ‘Planned Language’ », in Esperanto, Interlinguistics, and Planned Language, ed. Humphrey Tonkin, Lanham MD, University Press of America, 1997, p. 1-20.

15 https://www.ethnologue.com/language/epo

16 Alan Reed Libert, « Artificial Languages », Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics, 2018. Available online: https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199384655.013.11.

17 Christopher Gledhill, « Phraseology as a Measure of Emergent Norm: The Case of Esperanto », in Politiques linguistiques et langues autochtones d’enseignement dans l’Europe des vingt-sept, ed. José Carlos Herreras, Presses universitaires de Valenciennes, Valenciennes, 2014, p. 320.

18 Calvet, op. cit., p. 197

19 Quoted in Ulrich Lins, Dangerous Language – Esperanto under Hitler and Stalin, vol. 1, trans. Humphrey Tonkin, London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016, p. 10.

20 Humphrey Tonkin, « Invented cities, invented languages. Esperanto and urban textuality, 1887-1914 », Language Problems & Language Planning, 40, 1, 2016, p. 93.

21 Edwards, op. cit., p. 181-182, paraphrasing the work of Finnish linguist Jouko Lindstedt.

22 A. D. Dulichenko, Mezhdunarodnye vspomogatel’nye iazyki, Tallinn, Valgus, 1990. Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, Wiley-Blackwell, 1997, is the classic study.

23 Humphrey Tonkin, art. cit., p. 92.

24 Louis-Jean Calvet, op. cit., p. 197.

25 Lindstedt, art. cit.

26 Pierre Jantonop. cit., p. 51; cf. Lindstedt, art. cit.

27 Zamenhof’s name is written in different ways. His first name was registered in Russian as Lazar’ (Lejzer, Leyzer, etc.). As was the custom of the time, a Gentile name was added: Ludwig (Ludwik, Ludoviko, etc.). See Christer Kiselman, « Esperanto: Its Origins and Early History », p. 1. Available online: http://www.cb.uu.se/~kiselman/pau2008.pdf.

28 Pierre Jantonop. cit., p. 17.

29 Kiselman, art. cit., p. 9.

30 Andrew Large, The Artificial Language Movement, New York, Basil Blackwell, 1985, p. 117-118.

31 Detlev Blanke, « Causes of the relative success of Esperanto », Language Problems & Language Planning, 33, 3, 2009, p. 256. Cf. Edwards, art. cit., p. 366.

32 Ulrich Lins, op. cit., p. 20.

33 Geoffrey Sutton, Concise Encyclopedia of the Original Literature of Esperanto, 1887-2007, New York, Mondial, 2008, p. 23.

34 This article compares subsequent religious appropriations of Esperanto. Zamenhof’s own religious worldview constitutes a related but distinct topic, for which there is already a burgeoning scholarly literature. See, e.g., Jeremi Gishron, Lingvo kaj religio: Studo pri la frua esperantismo kun speciala atento al L. L. Zamenhof, Jerusalem, Eldonejo Sivron, 1986; Aleksander Korĵenkov [Korzhenkov], Homarano. La vivo, verkoj kaj ideoj de d-ro Zamenhof, Kaliningrad: Sezonoj; Kaunas: Litova esperanto-asocio, 2009, available in an abridged English version: Aleksander Korzhenkov, Zamenhof: The Life, Works and Ideas of the Author of Esperanto, trans. Ian M. Richard, New York, Mondial, 2010; Christer Kiselman, « Hilelismo, homaranismo kaj neŭtrale-homa religio », in La arto labori kune. Festlibro por Humphrey Tonkin, ed. Detlev Blanke and Ulrich Lins, Rotterdam, Universala Esperanto-Asocio, 2010, p. 401-414; I. V. Simonov, « Religiozno-eticheskie ucheniia L. Zamengofa », Austrian Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 3-4, 2014, p. 209-213; Brigid O’Keeffe, « An International Language for an Empire of Humanity: L.L. Zamenhof and the Imperial Russian Origins of Esperanto », East European Jewish Affairs, 49, 4, 2019, p. 1-19.

35 Quoted in O’Keeffe, art. cit., p. 10.

36 Brian P. Bennett, op. cit., p. 84, 190.

37 For example, Das Gebet des Herrn in den Sprachen Russlands, St. Petersburg, Ev. Haupt-Bibelgesellsch, 1870.

38 Federico Gobbo, « Beyond the Nation-State? The Ideology of the Esperanto Movement between Neutralism and Multilingualism », Social Inclusion, 5, 4, 2017, p. 38-47.

39 Religia Literaturo en Esperanto, ed. Karl-Olof Sandgren and Leif Nordenstorm, Boden, Nordenstorms förlag, 1994.

40 See Oliver Freiberger, Considering Comparison: A Method for Religious Studies, New York, Oxford University Press, 2019, p. 94 et passim. Language policy serves here as the tertium comparationis or focal point of comparison.

41 Cf. Bernard Spolsky, op. cit., p. 5.

42 Harold F. Schiffman, Linguistic Culture and Language Policy, London and New York, Routledge, 1996, p. 5.

43 Bernard Spolsky, op. cit., p. ix, 6

44 Brian P. Bennett, op. cit., p. 48-76.

45 David Crystal, « Liturgical Language in a Sociolinguistic Perspective », in Language and the Worship of the Church, ed. D. Jasper and R. C. D. Jasper, Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1990, p. 122.

46 Federico Gobbo, op. cit., p. 127.

47 Navid Kermani, God is Beautiful: The Aesthetic Experience of the Quran, trans. Tony Crawford, Malden, Massachusetts, Polity, 2015, p. 128-29.

48 La Nobla Korano, trans. Italo Chiussi, Copenhagen, 1970. Available online: https://alislam.org/quran/Holy-Quran-Esperanto.pdf

49 See, e.g., RamatísLa Misio de Esperanto. Pere de la psikografo Hercílio Maes, Limeira, Editora do Conhecimento, 2000; cf. David Pardue « Uma só língua, uma só bandeira, um só pastor: Spiritism and Esperanto in Brazil », Esperantologio / Esperanto Studies, 2, 2001, p. 11-27.

50 Kenneth E. Bowers, God Speaks Again: An Introduction to the Bahá’í Faith, Wilmette, Illinois, Bahá’í Publishing, 2004.

51 Bahaa Esperanto-Ligo, Bahaismo kaj Edsperanto. La Bahaa Religio kaj ĝiaj rilatoj al Esperanto, Holheim, Germany, 2009, p. 6.

52 Gregory Paul P. Meyjes, « Language and world order in Bahá’í perspective: A new paradigm revealed » in Explorations in the Sociology of Language and Religion, ed. Tope Omoniyi and Joshua A. Fishman, Amsterdam/Philadelphia, John Benjamins Publishing Company, p. 31.

53 Bahaa Esperanto-Ligo, op. cit., p. 3.

54 Meyjes, op. cit., p. 31.

55 Bahaa Esperanto-Ligo, op. cit., p. 6-7.

56 These are said to be the first books in Esperanto about aliens and UFOs. See https://fenomenonifo.wordpress.com/2010/06/02/raelana-movado-kaj-esperanto/. I have not had access to these editions.

57 Raël, Intelligent Design: Message from the Designers, [n. p.], Nova Distribution, 2005, p. 100. This volume is an updated English-language translation and combination of the first three books.

58 Ibid., p. 205.

59 Raël, Geniocracy: Government of the People, for the People, by the Geniuses, Nova Distribution, 90. See Susan J. Palmer, Alien’s Adored: Raël’s UFO Religion, New Brunswick, New Jersey, and London, Rutgers University Press, 2004. Chapter 3 (p. 57-79) is called “How to Construct a New Religion.” It would be instructive to consider the parallels between religion and language construction.

60 Alan Reed Libert, art. cit.

61 Ulrich Matthias, Esperanto – The New Latin for the Church, Antwerp, Flandra Esperanto-Ligo, 2002. This book has been translated into French, German, English, and Russian.

62 https://www.papalencyclicals.net/john23/j23veterum.htm

63 Jerzy (George) Korytkowski, « Esperanto in the Service of Religion », in Language in Religion, ed. Humphrey Tonkin and Allison Armstrong Keef, Lanham, Maryland, University Press of America, 1989, p. 89-97.

64 N.G. Hoen, Emile Peltier: Apostolo de Katolika Esperantismo, Kristana Kultura IKUE-Kajero 1, [n. p.], Internacia Katolika Unuiĝo Esperantista, 1963.

65 Robert Hugh Benson, Lord of the World, Notre Dame, Indiana, Christian Classics, 2016 [1907].

66 Available online, see: https://thecatholicnewsarchive.org/?a=d&d=OSV19160305-01.2.4&srpos=8&e=-------en-20--1-byDA-txt-txIN-esperanto-ARTICLE------

67 For its current status, see https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/laity/documents/rc_pc_laity_doc_20051114_associazioni_it.html#Cattolici%20esperantisti

68 Kurt Rudolph, « The Foundations of the History of Religions and Its Future Task », in The History of Religions: Retrospect and Prospect, ed. Joseph M. Kitagawa, New York, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1985, p. 112; cf. Christian Smith, Religion: What it is, how it works, and why it matters, Princeton and Oxford, Princeton University Press, 2017.

69 Available online: https://vitor.6te.net/?page_id=299

70 Cf. Gérard Genette, Paratexts: thresholds of interpretation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2001.

71 Available online: https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/it/messages/urbi/documents/hf_jp-ii_mes_19940403_easter-urbi.html

72 Ulrich Matthias, op. cit., p. 61.

73 Available online: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2021-02/vatican-radio-90th-anniversary-statement-web-radio.html

74 Gobbo, art. cit., p. 44.

75 Natalia Naydenova, « Holy Rus: (Re)construction of Russia’s Civilizational Identity », Slavonica, 21, nos. 1-2, p. 37-48.

76 Brian P. Bennett, « How the Jesuits helped to bring Latin to Russia »,

77 Adolf Burkhardt, « Esperanto kaj la ortodoksa eklezio », in Khristianstvo i Esperanto, the Russian translation of Matthias, Esperanto – the new Latin for the Church and Ecumenism.

78 Michael A. Propopovov, A Russian Presence. A History of the Russian Orthodox Church in Australia, Gorgias Press, 2006, p. 64, n. 11; cf. A. A. Khisamutdinov, “Innokentii Seryshev: vostokoved i esperantist,” Problemy Dal’nego Vostoka, 2001, 2, p. 135-138. Available online: http://miresperanto.com/pri_esperantistoj/seryshev.htm.

79 See, e.g., Victoria Smolkin, Sacred Space is Never Empty: A history of Soviet atheism, Princeton University Press, 2019. For the Esperanto story, Ulrich Lins, op. cit.; cf. Halina Gorecka and Aleksander Korĵenkov, Esperanto en Ruslando, Yekaterinburg: Sezonoj, 2000.

80 Ilja Smykov, Dia Liturgio [Divine Liturgy], 2015, p. 3-4.

81 « V khrame, gde sluzhil protoierei Ioann Shiriaev, byla sovershena Liturgiia [A liturgy was celebrated in the church where Protopriest Ivan Shiriaev served] », 1/8/2018, available online: https://rybeparhia.ru/news/news-5184.html

82 Brian P. Bennett, Religion and Language in Post-Soviet Russia, London and New York, Routledge, 2011.

83 Cf. Andrew Dawson, New Era – New Religions. Religious Transformation in Contemporary Brazil, Ashgate, 2007, Aldershot; Burlington, VT, p. 45-46.

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Brian P. Bennett, «Esperanto: One Language, Many Religions», Histoire culturelle de l'Europe [En ligne], Revue d'histoire culturelle de l'Europe, Langues et religions en Europe du Moyen Âge à nos jours, Langue, religion, identités nationales aux XIXe et XXe siècles,mis à jour le : 24/03/2022,URL : http://www.unicaen.fr/mrsh/hce/index.php?id=2359

Quelques mots à propos de : Brian P. Bennett

Brian P. Bennett est professeur d’études religieuses à l’Université du Niagara aux États-Unis. Ses travaux de recherche explorent l’intrication des diverses traditions religieuses et de la multiplicité des langues et des écritures sacrées. Il s’intéresse particulièrement au slavon d’église, au latin, à l’espéranto et au braille – en Russie et au-delà. Il a notamment publié deux monographies, Sacred Languages of the World: An Introduction (Wiley, 2018) et Religion and Language in Post-Soviet Russia (Routledge, 2011).