History of International Newspapers: L'Osservatore Romano in Vatican City Part 1

About the International newspaper L'Osservatore Romano published in Vatican City, history and information.


The Past. The purpose of L'Osservatore Romano, founded in 1861, was to "refute the calumnies being launched against Rome and the Roman Pontificate, to record everything worthy of note that happened during the day in Rome, to recall the unshaken principles that are the basis of Catholicism, to instruct in the duties that people have toward their country, and to urge and promote the reverence owed to the Pontiff and Ruler." Its editors, 2 political refugees named Nicola Zanchini and Giuseppe Bastia, had considerable freedom. The official backing of the Church was kept secret.

It was not until 1890, when Pope Leo XIII decided to buy the paper, that its position became clear. The new editor reportedly said, "The Pope said to me, 'Everybody has his paper, the Holy See must also have its own. I have called upon you to take the direction of the paper. . . . Be independent of everybody; you are answerable only to me and my Secretary of State."

In November, 1929, L'Osservatore Romano moved to Vatican City (set up as a State separate from Italy) to get away from the fascists. Mussolini was then attacking the Church and suggesting social reforms that the Church was against. Count Giuseppe Della Torre, one of the paper's most famous editors, would not allow the paper to refer to Mussolini as "Il Duce." When Della Torre was threatened with arrest, he retaliated by calling Hitler "anti-Christ."

In 1938, Hitler came to Rome, and the Pope went to his summer place at Castel Gandolfo to escape meeting him. Ignoring Hitler's visit, L'Osservatore Romano said the Pope found the air better there.

By 1939, fascists were assaulting and beating the paper's delivery men and any priests who were caught reading the paper.

Of all the Italian newspapers, only L'Osservatore Romano printed Allied communiquÈs during W.W. II. Circulation boomed. Della Torre was waylaid outside St. Peter's by fascists and escaped by the skin of his teeth.

When Rome was liberated, however, the news was carried on the last page of the paper; the front page featured a religious ceremony. A writer on Vatican affairs said, "I don't think the editor . . . intended to snub the conquerors of Rome. It was just his tactful way of reminding his readers that wars are won and lost, empires crumble, regimes rise and fall, but the Church goes on forever because her power is spiritual and not material."

In 1960, Raimondo Manzini took over as editor. He enlivened the paper considerably and doubled the staff.

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