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Born to defy the Iron Curtain

· Polish edition of ‘L'Osservatore Romano’ celebrates 30 years ·

“John Paul II's idea was truly daring: L'Osservatore Romano had to defy the impenetrable Iron Curtain. It was the only newspaper that entered a Country under the Communist regime without being censured”.

On the 30th anniversary of the foundation of the Polish edition of L'Osservatore Romano , the daily edition published an article on 15 April, cited above, written by the edition's first editor, Fr Adam Boniecki, mic. Featured alongside it was a message on behalf of the Holy Father Benedict XVI, dated 2 April, addressed to the current editor, Fr Wladyslaw Gryzlo, sj, and signed by Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

Fr Boniecki's article highlighted the important role the monthly Polish edition played during a time of great political tension.

The Polish Bishops had to engage in “protracted negotiations with the Country's Communist authorities in order to obtain, in the end, an authorization which nonetheless contained a series of restrictions”, he wrote. The Polish edition could only contain “Addresses by the Pope, documents of the Holy See and the Polish Bishops' Conference and information regarding the Holy See and the life of the Church – nothing else”. Even with such a limited content, the newspaper reached a distribution of 120,000 copies in the Country's parishes.

When the Polish edition was first printed on 4 April 1980, there was a great mobilization of the secret services. Today's documentation shows just how many agents had repeatedly tried to collaborate with the publication's editors. All efforts to prevent the paper from publishing any Papal discourse that was not approved by the Communist Polish authorities failed. Attempts were also made “to discredit the newspaper's editors in the eyes of the Church”, Fr Boniecki wrote.

One issue containing a discourse by a Holy See representative in defence of the Solidarno{l-sacute}{l-cacute} union was even confiscated and – after months of ineffective interventions by the Bishops' Conference and the Vatican – destroyed.

The former editor's article also stated that the birth of the Polish edition “was therefore part of the actions which gradually led to the fall of the Iron Curtain that divided Europe”.

After the fall of Communism, the newspaper – and Catholic media in general – has no longer come up against these kinds of obstacles in spreading the Pope's message. Fr Boniecki added, however, that with this new freedom has come the danger of taking the Church's teaching out of context. While many readers refer to summaries and citations, L'Osservatore Romano still appeals to those who want “to know more, and to those occupied with the Church professionally”.

In his message, Cardinal Bertone expressed his congratulations and gratitude – on behalf of Benedict XVI – for the current Polish edition's “consistent and valid transmission to Polish readers of the Pontiff's Magisterium”.

He added that the birth of the newspaper coincided with the beginning of the Pontificate of John Paul II, “who, as he wrote five years ago, had wanted to draw his own people and the other Slavic peoples to the heart of the Universal Church”.

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