oss-romWhen Gian Maria Vian took over as editor of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano in late 2007, most observers yawned. No-one really expected much change at the staid newspaper. But within a few months, the paper started to rock and roll — at least as much as a paper like that can.

Slowly but surely, change has come to the 148-year-old mouthpiece of the Vatican, considered by many in the past a bland broadsheet at best and once called the “Catholic Pravda”, a reference to the communist party organ in the former Soviet Union.

It started publishing color pictures and more articles by and about women — not bad for an institution that is still a male bastion. It also began including more international cover, war cover and economic cover.
Some of its unorthodox commentaries have also been lighthearted and provocative. To wit: it ran an editorial saying that perhaps the washing machine had done more to liberate women than the pill or the right to work. It post-humusly forgave John Lennon for once boasting that the Beatles were more famous than Christ. And, it finally set the record straight that no, the pope does not wear Prada.

Vian has become a player in his own right, giving interviews on a range of topics from Pius XII (Vian has just written a book defending him) to President Barack Obama. He came under fire from Catholic conservatives in the United States after he stated that Obama was not a “pro-abortion” president. He has now given a very interesting interview to Rome-based religion expert Delia Gallagher in the National Review. The interview, which is very readable and insightful, is worth reading in its entirety.

Gallagher, a Californian with a masters in philosophy and theology from Oxford University, has returned to Rome, where she started her professional career as managing editor of the magazine Inside the Vatican in 1998. She was a Rome-based Vatican analyst for CNN from 2002-2005 and was CNN’s Faith and Values Correspondent from 2005-2009, based in New York.