ROME — The Vatican has halted production of the print version of its daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano out of fear of coronavirus contagion, moving to an online-only format.
The Vatican newspaper made its announcement through a front-page letter from Andrea Monda, who was named the director of L’Osservatore Romano in December 2018.
As the Italian daily Il Messaggero observed, the coronavirus has accomplished what two world wars could not, since L’Osservatore Romano never missed a single day of production during the entire twentieth century, despite attempts by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels to persuade the Mussolini government to shut down L’Osservatore Romano in 1938 after the pope’s newspaper came out with a scathing article criticizing the Reich’s Manifesto of Race.
“A small virus from China, the COVID-19, has brought the pope’s glorious newspaper to its knees,” Il Messaggero noted, and the March 25 issue, on the Catholic feast of the Annunciation, will be the last hardcopy issue until further notice.
“In the long history of the Vatican newspaper — which dates back to 1861 and therefore has more than a century and a half of life — only once was the newspaper not printed,” said Mr. Monda. “That was on September 20, 1870, immediately after the breach of Porta Pia and the capture of Rome, with the end of the Pontifical State and the temporal power of the Pope.”
The Vatican has indicated that the newspaper will continue to be issued in digital form on its website until the pandemic has passed, while all typographical activities will be suspended until further notice.
A single concession has been made. One press technician and one binder will remain in the printing house to produce 10 copies of the L’Osservatore Romano to be distributed at the highest levels of the curia, including the Secretary of State and Pope Francis.
Five years ago, at the outset of the Vatican’s communications reform, the idea of transferring the newspaper from paper to a digital format was discussed at length but eventually discarded, despite the net financial losses suffered by the paper, with its staff of some sixty people, including journalists and printing and photographic staff.
“We will continue to work in ‘smart working’ and 90 percent of the editorial staff will feed the site,” said Mr. Monda. “As far as the print edition is concerned, this is a temporary closure, which furnishes an opportunity for us to strengthen our presence on the internet. But we will return to newsstands.”