For the first time, the Vatican newspaper's presses are rolling outside of Rome -- and beginning operations in Baltimore.
Cardinal William H. Keeler said yesterday that publishing the weekly English language edition of L'Osservatore Romano, containing Pope John Paul II's speeches and writings, is "a tremendous honor" for the local Roman Catholic nonprofit foundation that also publishes the Catholic Review.
The newspaper's Jan. 7 issue, the first printed here, was sent to 2,500 subscribers in the United States by the Cathedral Foundation, the center of Catholic church works in Baltimore.
At a celebration marking the occasion, Keeler said he visited Rome in December and made final arrangements.
"I felt like I was signing an international treaty," he said. "It was an adventure in a high-ceilinged room of the Vatican."
Keeler also attended a dinner with Pope John Paul II while in Rome, but they did not discuss the Baltimore-Rome journalism link. "It didn't come up," he said.
Baltimore's church role
The cardinal noted the city's central role in American Catholic history. "Baltimore is the place where the Catholic church in the U.S. began organizationally" in 1789, he said. The oldest Catholic cathedral in the United States is the Basilica of the Assumption on Cathedral Street downtown, dating from 1806.
DTC Now, nearly two centuries later, Internet technology is being used to deliver the pope's official publication faster to American readers.
Making all the logistical arrangements to publish the Vatican newspaper -- also technically a government document -- in Baltimore was a yearlong project, said Daniel Medinger, chief executive officer of the Cathedral Foundation. Medinger said the Vatican initially approached the foundation through an intermediary with the idea.
"The idea that someone can make a page in Rome and download it to us in Baltimore is incredible," he said. "It's the tradition of the church to use technology to spread the gospel."
The Baltimore foundation will not exercise any editorial control over the content of L'Osservatore Romano, said Medinger.
The weekly, in the format of a 12-page tabloid, is scheduled to be printed and mailed every Wednesday, reaching North American readers more rapidly than it previously did by air or ship from Rome.
A yearly subscription to the newspaper costs $151.
Sister Philip Joseph, a nun at Mount de Sales Academy in Catonsville, said she has read the English-language Vatican newspaper for 25 years.
"I consider it the voice of the church, with all of his [the pope's] homilies and major writings," she said. "It's theological, inspirational and historical."
Bringing it to Baltimore, she said, is "one more link with the rock of Peter." Peter, one of the 12 disciples of Christ, is considered by Catholics to be the first pope.
Pope John Paul, 77, who speaks 10 languages, is known for his prodigious writings. He writes in his native Polish, translated into Italian for publication in the daily edition of L'Osservatore Romano in Rome.
Reflections for New Year's
The premiere issue printed in Baltimore contains the pope's New Year's reflections, including a peace prayer addressed to heads of state: "From the justice of each comes peace for all."
Most of the Vatican newspapers are circulated to priests, nuns and others who devote full time to church work, Keeler said.
But because about 60 million Catholics and 19,000 Catholic parishes are in the United States, "There is room for significant growth and marketing creativity," Medinger said.
Pub Date: 1/13/98