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L'Osservatore Romano ( ) 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.


19th century

The first issue of L'Osservatore Romano was published in Romemarker 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 Statesmarker, adopting the name of a private pamphlet financed by a French Catholic legitimist group. The 8 September 1860 defeat of papal troops at Castelfidardomarker 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 Piamarker 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 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.

20th century

21st century

Today, the paper takes 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".


Under Pope Leo XIII, the Holy See acquired ownership of L'Osservatore in 1885, cementing its official status.

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)

L'Osservatore Romano and the Magisterium

A common error for journalists and theologians is to interpret the texts of L'Osservatore Romano as if they were of official value for the Magisterium. In fact, they cannot have such a value, except if a high-ranking bishop is writing a more solemn text, and not a mere theological opinion. Otherwise, L'Osservatore does not have the ability 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".


  1. From : Et ego dico tibi quia tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam et portae inferi 'non praevalebunt adversum eam (Latin Vulgate).
  2. [Vatican newspaper says new questions raised about brain death]

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