The recent naming of Catholic intellectual Giovanni Maria Vian as the new director of L’Osservatore Romano, means the opening of a new era for the Vatican publication, which will include its complete publication online.
L’Osservatore Romano was founded in 1861 at the request of Pope Pius IX in order to give a public voice to the Vatican, just months after the Pontifical states were lost in the wake of Italian unification.
The Vatican daily, which is currently published daily in Italian, has a limited circulation of around 3,000, with only about 1,000 actually sold. The actual impact of the paper is much larger though because it reflects the position of the Vatican on critical issues.
Although the Vatican daily will never be profitable, as it rarely prints ads, Vian has proposed not only creating greater interest in the newspaper but also expanding its readership.
The day after becoming director, Vian instituted a significant change in the format and content of the newspaper: pages two and three, usually full of Italian news, have become international pages, with Italy covered as just another country.
More importantly, the new director has begun providing space for extensive opinion articles by renowned experts addressing such sensitive subjects as the future of the liturgy, the dialogue between faith and culture and the reform of the curia.
One such article by Valentin Miserach Grau, current president of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, criticized the state of liturgical music at the Vatican.
Vian has also allowed international analysts of L’Osservatore Romano to sign their own articles, a decision that has pleased the paper’s editors and motivated them to work harder.
According to Vatican sources, the refurbished newspaper has the support of Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
In addition, while editors prepare to publish the complete newspaper online, Vian has begun sending articles out via email to subscribers and to the editors of the principal Italian news agencies in Rome.
Although there are currently no plans to make changes to the weekly editions in other languages, sources at L’Osservatore Romano are looking into the possibility of translating these opinion columns into English and Spanish. The idea of publishing some of the articles online that are not normally featured in the weekly editions has also been floated.