It Should Be Called the ‘Friend of Truth’
A Tribute to L’Osservatore Romano
By Antonio Gaspari
ROME, JAN. 18, 2012 (Zenit.org).- It should be called “the friend of truth.” It opposed Nazism and Communism. In defense of the Pope and of the poor, it has challenged dictators worldwide. Its motto affirms “Non praevalebunt.” Pope Paul VI pointed it out as “a light nourished by the See of Peter,” it has just celebrated its 150th anniversary, and Benedict XVI speaks of its “long and great history.”
We are talking about L’Osservatore Romano, commonly known in Rome as “the Pope’s newspaper.” Born in difficult times in 1861, when it seemed that the Holy See would be swept away, it has grown enormously and today comes out with editions in eight languages among which is also the Malaysian version published in India.
In Brazil there is a street dedicated to L’Osservatore Romano in the Carlos Lourenco Garden of Campinas.
The paper was founded by lawyer Nicola Zanchini together with journalist Giuseppe Bastia after Pope Pius IX gave his blessing to the publication.
Written in the founding constitution is that the objective of L’Osservatore Romano is to “unmask and confute the calumnies hurled against the Roman Pontificate,” to “recall the principles of the Catholic religion and those of justice and law as the basis of ordinary civil living” and to “stimulate and promote the veneration of the Sovereign Pontiff.”
In connection with the nascent Italian nation and the sciences, L’Osservatore Romano proposed “to instruct on the duties owed to the homeland” and to “bring together and illustrate all that through art, literature and sciences merits being pointed out to the public, especially the inventions and related applications.”
In the course of its glorious history, L’Osservatore Romano has distinguished itself for opposing every form of totalitarianism and for defending the liberty and dignity of the person.
Speaking of the 30s, when Italy was under the Fascist dictatorship, Francis Charles Roux, ambassador of France to the Holy see, writes in his memoirs that L’Osservatore Romano is “the only newspaper in Italy that does not obey the governmental dispositions and those of the Fascist party.”
“Its independence in confrontations with the government, made its circulation grow to a number that was very different from the usual,” added the French diplomat. In that period the Pope’s newspaper sold close to 60,000 copies, reaching even to 100,000, an enormous number at that time.
The diffusion of L’Osservatore Romano infuriated the Fascist militia, to the point that some customers were mistreated, entire packets of the newspaper were confiscated and burnt.
In this connection, in the Constituent Assembly of March 20, 1947, the well-known Italian journalist, jurist, writer and politician Piero Calamandrei said: “In the years of the greatest oppression, we must remember that the only newspaper in which one could still find some reference to liberty, to our liberty, to the liberty common to all free men was L’Osservatore Romano.
“And when the racial persecutions began, the Church lined up against the persecutors and in defense of the oppressed; because when the Germans sought our sons to torture and shoot them, they, no matter what their party, found refuge in the rectories and convents; because priests were found who were prepared to offer themselves as hostages to save the population of a municipality and to rescue the life of all with their sacrifice.”
Among the thousands of acts of heroism carried out by Catholics, emerges that of the director of L’Osservatore Romano, Giuseppe Dalla Torre, who, to follow the indications of the Servant of God Pius XII, on Oct. 29, 1943, took care of and sent the Jew Giovanni Astrologo with his father and four aunts to the Lombard Seminary of Rome.
They were persecuted and sought by the Nazis. Dalla Torre entrusted them to Monsignor Francesco Bertoglio, rector of the seminary, who on June 29, 2010 was recognized by Yad Vashem as “Righteous Among the Nations.”
On Sept. 24, 1936, intervening in the second international congress of Catholic journalists, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli said that L’Osservatore Romano “for fifteen lustrums was the austere herald of the voice and sentences of Peter and the champion of his most sacred rights.”
And when Pacelli became Pope Pius XII he described it as “faithful and dear.”
According to Blessed Pope John XXIII, L’Osservatore Romano is “the daily herald, the instrument, the surest voice by which the Pope’s thought is ordinarily transmitted and guaranteed of its authenticity, from Rome to the extreme ends of the world.”
In the introduction of the pamphlet marking the paper’s 150th anniversary, Benedict XVI explained that L’Osservatore Romano knows how to express “the cordial friendship of the Holy See for humanity in our time, in defense of the human person created in the image and likeness of God and redeemed by Christ.”