The Holy See
back up


Palazzo Valentini, Rome
Tuesday, 24 October 2006


Mr President of the Province of Rome,
Distinguished Members of the Committee and of the Provincial Council,
Your Eminences and Your Excellencies,
Mr Director of L'Osservatore Romano,
Authorities present,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am particularly pleased to take part in today's meaningful exhibition which highlights the collaboration between the Administration of the Province of Rome and the Holy See, and I thank you for the opportunity offered to me to address those present.

In the first place, I am grateful to the President, Dr Enrico Gasbarra, for the hospitality offered to us. I have listened attentively to his welcome address, and also to Prof. Mario Agnes, Director of L'Osservatore Romano. Today, this interesting newspaper exhibition is being inaugurated to commemorate its 145 years of history. Could one fail to recognize the merit of the person whose idea it was, who followed it up and arranged it? My appreciation and praise to all.

Worthy of mention in this regard is the fact that such an event is taking place in a Palace of Rome's Civil Institutions. How times have changed from when, through the initiative and passion of the lawyers Nicola Zanchini of Forlì and Giuseppe Bastia of Bologna, L'Osservatore Romano came into being, in a hostile climate and open defiance between supporters of the Italian Risorgimento and defenders of the Pontifical State!

Created to defend the Catholic Religion and the Roman Pontiff, the daily newspaper became the official organ of the Apostolic See, which made it an instrument, along with its value, for the diffusion of the teachings of the Successor of Peter and for information about Church events.

One must also emphasize that it was due to some lay faithful, inspired by a strong missionary motivation, that it could take its first steps to begin its courageous activity, presenting the genuine face of the Church and the ideals of freedom that it sets forth and brings to life.

One hundred and forty-five years have passed since then: this exhibition embraces a long span of time with a dutiful, deeper glance at the events of our day. The succession of historical events shows that the Church, in the past as in the present, in order to spread the Gospel message in every area of society, to promote and defend the authentic ideals of freedom, truth, justice and charity, needs the industry, inventiveness and charism of the laity.

In the path traced by the present exhibition through the history of the newspaper, we can therefore review the entire itinerary of the Church, which during this time has always sought to spread the Gospel and defend the value of man and the inviolableness of his dignity and his rights.

All this documentation familiarizes us with the pastoral activity of a good 11 Pontiffs. Blessed Pius IX, who granted his assent to the birth of L'Osservatore Romano; the long and complex Pontificate of Leo XIII, with the profound social changes of those years; St Pius X, parish priest of the world, the Pope of the great reforms that took place from within the Church; Benedict XV, who promulgated the greatest collection of ecclesiastical laws, and who precisely in the Vatican newspaper published the heart-rending Nota ai Capi dei popoli belligeranti (Note to the Heads of belligerent peoples); Pius XI, who condemned the totalitarianism of every political colour, as also his Successor did, the Servant of God, Pius XII.

Let us not forget that actually during the Second World War L'Osservatore Romano was one of the few free voices (especially with the famous Acta Diurna) and documented the enormous humanitarian work promoted by Pius XII and by the Holy See!

L'Osservatore Romano then describes the springtime flowering in the Church with the work of Blessed John XXIII and the breath of the Second Vatican Council. The daily of the Apostolic See made itself the faithful interpreter of this exceptional ecclesial event, as well as of the wise and providential work of the Servant of God, Paul VI, who guided the Church in the Conciliar period and in the difficult years following the Council.

We cannot forget Paul VI's great and heartfelt Appeal in favour of the liberation of Aldo Moro and the moving words pronounced at his funeral: "I address you, men of the Red Brigades...".

Pope Montini, wounded to the heart but not wounded in the strength of faith, showed the Italian Nation the way of pardon, reconciliation and the renunciation of all violence as the only way for the pacification of our Country.

L'Osservatore Romano was the interpreter of the brief Pontificate of the Servant of God, John Paul I, and in the years closer to us, of the renewed dialogue of the Holy See with the world which characterized the long Pontificate of the Servant of God, John Paul II. It followed the daily activity, his many initiatives and Apostolic Journeys, which marked a new phase in the history of the Papacy and of the Church.

Lastly, the Vatican daily keeps us in touch with the events of our day in which the Church walks, guided by the wisdom of Benedict XVI.

It would be interesting to monitor the circulation and influence of L'Osservatore Romano in the regions of the world and in the most dissimilar social-political and cultural environments, as on the other hand, in the countries and in the most simple families, faithful to the Pope. I, for example, remember that in my birthplace, Romano Canavese, for many years two copies of L'Osservatore Romano were delivered: one addressed to Don Paolo Bellono, resident priest, and the other to my grandfather and then to my father, Pietro Bertone.

Allow me an additional observation. The history of L'Osservatore Romano is linked to the history of our city: Rome. It is not by chance, as facts show, that the newspaper also reports the administrative unification achieved with the establishment of the Province of Rome.

Of this City, which constitutes the cradle of Western society and the heart of Catholicism, the newspaper of the Holy See continues to carry news of the daily events and Christian action.

It is called L'Osservatore Romano almost to indicate the care with which the universal Shepherd of the Church, the Bishop of Rome, looks above all at the community entrusted to his care, because this City, blessed by the blood of many martyrs and by the passage of countless saints, conscientiously performs its mission to be a beacon of civilization and evangelical spirituality.

The sole and constant desire of the Church and her Supreme Pastor, of which this newspaper is an attentive and faithful spokesperson, is after all to communicate the Gospel urbi et orbi, to Rome and the entire world. It is a precious heritage to welcome and continue.

From its first courageous steps, accomplished on the long ago 1 July 1861, thanks to the intuition and dedication of a group of industrious lay faithful who formed themselves into an association, thanks to the modern technologies of our day which permit an ever more rapid and capillary communication, the spirit and style of their work remains the same.

From the commitment between a Public Institution, the Province of Rome, and our newspaper, an ulterior sign of collaboration and common work in the service of the great causes of human dignity and peace is born, as you, Mr President, opportunely recalled in your opening speech.

Rome, both Civil and Christian Rome, bears inscribed in its own destiny the sign of love and peace. This exhibition, finally, recalls the unchanging message of hope, the moral mission that unites the civil and religious institutions of Rome.

With respect to the singular, particular prerogatives and of the duties of each, we are all called - Public Administrations and Church - to a fruitful and reciprocal collaboration for the good of this City, because it is at the service of man, especially when he is poor and suffering, because it promotes justice and peace in a social context where no one feels marginalized or excluded.

Pope Benedict XVI, in the recent Convention of the Italian Church in Verona, exhorted Catholics present in every area of society to be "trustingly open to new relationships, without wasting any energy that can contribute to the cultural and moral growth of Italy" (L'Osservatore Romano English Edition, 25 October 2006, p. 8).

May this also be the result of the present initiative: inspired by the glorious memory of the past to relaunch and re-plan with prophetic spirit an effective and convincing instrument of communication of the Universal Church, in order to promote the growth of men and women of good will, resolved to work together to build a future of hope for all, for our City and the entire world.