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L'Osservatore Romano

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.


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 defense of the Papal States, adopting the name of a private pamphlet financed by a French Catholic legitimist group. The 8 September 1860 defeat of papal troops at Castelfidardo substantially reduced the temporal power of the Pope, prompting Catholic intellectuals to present themselves in Rome to 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, 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 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 to the regulations 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 their 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 recognizes 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 official 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 official status in 1885.

Today, the paper takes more objective and subdued stance than at the time of its founding, priding itself in "presenting the genuine face of the church and the ideals of freedom," according to remarks 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):

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 English weekly edition was first published on 4 April 1968. Currently it is distributed in more than 129 countries, including both English-speaking countries and locales where English is used as the general means of communication.


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)


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