The 7 February 2008 Italian-language
front page of L'Osservatore Romano
|Type||Daily newspaper in Italian
Weekly newspaper in other languages
|Owner||The Holy See|
|Editor||Giovanni Maria Vian|
|Founded||July 1, 1861 (152 years old)|
|Political alignment||Roman Catholic Church|
L'Osservatore Romano (English: The Roman Observer) is the "semi-official" newspaper of the Holy See. It covers all the Pope's public activities, publishes editorials by important churchmen, and runs official documents after being released. The publication prints two Latin mottoes under the masthead of each edition: Unicuique suum ("To each his own") and Non praevalebunt ("[The gates of Hell] shall not prevail"). The current editor-in-chief is Giovanni Maria Vian.
Today, the paper takes a more objective and subdued stance than at the time of its foundation, priding itself in "presenting the genuine face of the church and the ideals of freedom", following the statement by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone in an October 2006 speech inaugurating a new exhibit dedicated to the founding and history of the newspaper. He further described the publication as "an instrument for spreading the teachings of the successor of Peter and for information about church events".
L'Osservatore Romano is published in nine different languages (listed by date of first publication):
- Daily and weekly in Italian (1861/1950)
- Weekly in French (1949)
- Weekly in English (1968)
- Weekly in Spanish (1969)
- Weekly in Portuguese (1970)
- Weekly in German (1971)
- Monthly in Polish (1980)
- Weekly in Malayalam (2007)
The daily Italian edition of L'Osservatore Romano is published in the afternoon, but with a cover date of the following day, a convention that sometimes results in confusion. The weekly English edition is distributed in more than 129 countries, including both English-speaking countries and locales where English is used as the general means of communication.
The first issue of L'Osservatore Romano was published in Rome on 1 July 1861, a few months after the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed on 17 March 1861. The original intent of the newspaper was unabashedly polemical and propagandistic in defence of the Papal States, adopting the name of a private pamphlet financed by a French Catholic legitimist group. The 18 September 1860 defeat of papal troops at Castelfidardo substantially reduced the temporal power of the Pope, prompting Catholic intellectuals to present themselves in Rome for the service of Pope Pius IX. This agenda supported the notion of a daily publication to champion the opinions of the Holy See.
By July 1860, the deputy Minister of the Interior, Marcantonio Pacelli (grandfather of the future Pope Pius XII), had plans to supplement the official bulletin Giornale di Roma with a semi-official "rhetorical" publication. In early 1861, controversialist Nicola Zanchini and journalist Giuseppe Bastia were granted editorial direction of Pacelli's newspaper. Official permission to publish was sought on 22 June 1861, and four days later, on 26 June, Pius IX gave his approval for the regulation of L'Osservatore.
The first edition was entitled "L'Osservatore Romano – a political and moral paper" and cost five baiocchi. The "political and moral paper" epithet was dropped before 1862, adding instead the two Latin mottoes that still appear under the masthead today. The editors of the paper initially met in the Salviucci Press on the Piazza de' Santi Apostoli, where the paper was printed. Only when the editorial staff was established on the Palazzo Petri in Piazza dei Crociferi and the first issue printed there on 31 March, was the wording "daily newspaper" added to the masthead.
After the breach of Porta Pia by Italian troops in September 1870, L'Osservatore Romano solidified its opposition to the Kingdom of Italy, affirming obedience to the Pope and adherence to his directives, stating it would remain faithful "to that unchangeable principle of religion and morals which recognises as its sole depository and claimant the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth". Soon after, L'Osservatore began to replace the Giornale di Roma as the news organ of the Pontifical State. This development was obvious during the pontificate of Pope Leo XIII, who acquired the paper's ownership and sealed its semi-official status in 1885.
The English weekly edition was first published on 4 April 1968. On 7 January 1998, that edition became the first to be printed outside of Rome, when for North American subscribers, it began to be printed in Baltimore. The edition was printed by the Cathedral Foundation, publishers of The Catholic Review.
As of 1 July 2011, the English language edition of the L'Osservatore Romano for North American subscribers is once again published in Rome; it had been published by the Cathedral Foundation of Baltimore since 1998.
Past editors-in-chief of L'Osservatore Romano include:
- Nicola Zanchini and Giuseppe Bastia (1861–1866)
- Augusto Baviera (1866–1884)
- Cesare Crispolti (1884–1890)
- Giovan Battista Casoni (1890–1900)
- Giuseppe Angelini (1900–1919)
- Giuseppe Dalla Torre di Sanguinetto (1920–1960)
- Raimondo Manzini (1960–1978)
- Valerio Volpini (1978–1984)
- Mario Agnes (1984–2007)
- Giovanni Maria Vian (2007–present)
L'Osservatore Romano and the Magisterium
A common error made by journalists and theologians is interpreting the texts of L'Osservatore Romano as if they were of official value for the Magisterium, the church's teaching authority. They cannot have such a value unless a high-ranking bishop is writing a more solemn text, and not a mere theological opinion; otherwise, L'Osservatore does not have the authority to write or approve encyclicals and papal allocutions.
For instance, a 2008 article expressed the wish that the debate on brain death be re‑opened because of new developments in the medical world. An official spokesman said that the article presented a personal opinion of the author and "did not reflect a change in the Catholic Church's position".
- "L'Osservatore Romano". Catholic World News. Trinity Publications. Archived from the original on 2008-03-15. Retrieved 2010-10-19.
- From Matthew 16:18: Et ego dico tibi quia tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversum eam (Latin Vulgate).
- Glatz, Carol (2006-10-27). "L'Osservatore Romano: 145 years as 'genuine face of the church'". Vatican Letter (Catholic News Service). Retrieved 2008-02-08.
- "The origins of "L'Osservatore Romano"". L'Osservatore Romano. Retrieved 2008-02-08.
- "L'Osservatore Romano to be published in India". Catholic News Agency. 2007-04-02. Retrieved 2008-02-08.
- Stiehm, Jamie (January 13, 1998). "Newspaper for Vatican published in Baltimore". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2011-11-05. "For the first time, the Vatican newspaper's presses are rolling outside of Rome—and beginning operations in Baltimore. ... The newspaper's Jan. 7 issue, the first printed here, was sent to 2,500 subscribers in the United States by the Cathedral Foundation, the center of Catholic church works in Baltimore. ... Now, nearly two centuries later, Internet technology is being used to deliver the pope's official publication faster to American readers. Making all the logistical arrangements to publish the Vatican newspaper—also technically a government document—in Baltimore was a yearlong project...The weekly, in the format of a 12‑page tabloid, is scheduled to be printed and mailed every Wednesday, reaching North American readers more rapidly than it previously did by air or ship from Rome."
- "Notice to our subscribers in the U.S. and in Canada". L'Osservatore Romano. Retrieved 2011-11-05.
- Wooden, Cindy (September 30, 2008). "Vatican newspaper says new questions raised about brain death". Catholic News Service. Retrieved February 24, 2010.
- The Holy See – L'Osservatore Romano (English)
- L'Osservatore Romano site index (Italian)
- The origins of L'Osservatore Romano (English)