Rome (Vatican City) – For nearly 155 years, the “semi-official” daily newspaper of the Vatican city-state, “L’Osservatore Romano”, has printed papal discourses, statements, and news of appointments and audiences in its pages. Over the years, in addition to daily issues printed in Italian, the paper has added weeklies in such languages as English, French, German and Portuguese.
All of that adds up to a lot of paper, and particularly since the release of Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, Laudato Si’, questions have swirled within the editorial offices of the newspaper concerning whether it can continue to print without regard for its “eco-footprint”.
Shortly after the Holy Father issued his encyclical, current L’Osservatore editor-in-chief Giovanni Maria Vian began to fret. “Suddenly we have a Pope who cares about the environment, and a news outlet that looks entirely like an anachronism, with its newsprint and Latin motto. Then (on 27 June 2015) we get the motu proprio establishing a new Secretariat for Communications that will eventually absorb L’Osservatore Romano. The optics of this situation matter a great deal.”
According to Vian, the Pope appointed as new Prefect of the Secretariat for Communications none other than Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, “who hates paper.” Ever since his appointment in 2013 to be Director of the Vatican Television Center, “…it’s been nothing but ‘digital’ this and ‘new media’ that. History and tradition means nothing to the likes of him.”
So functionaries at L’Osservatore wasted no time in infiltrating Casa Santa Martae and embedding themselves “as cafeteria workers” who could discretely pass Pope Francis their idea, unhindered by papal handlers. The plan: recycling bins in St. Peter’s Square, circling the two granite fountains.
According to Vian, it was “This [the bins], or getting rid of the German weekly,” which he admitted no one actually reads but continues to enjoy a “cult following” due to its use for lining the cages of the birds of “high-ranking” clerics.
“Our big break happened one day in January of this year when the Holy Father accidentally dropped the panna cotta on his lunch tray as he was leaving the cafeteria line to join a group of youth from Brazil for lunch at a nearby table. One of our operatives quickly grabbed a new dessert from the line and brought it to Pope Francis, along with a copy of our proposal and a sketch that demonstrates the new bins,” said Vian.
Days later, recounts Vian, “the second assistant to Pope Francis called the offices of L’Osservatore to tell us that the Holy Father had seen the proposal and wanted the recycling bins placed at once, and preferably before the ‘Easter rush’.”
And, soon “we’ll have secured permission for placement of the bins at other major locations, including around the baldacchino inside the basilica, and within the Sistine Chapel.”
Thanks to another Vatican innovation, the future of L’Osservatore is again secure, “for weeks or months, at least.”