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Celebrating together a common history

· Exhibition on the unified State and our newspaper inaugurated at the Italian Senate ·

One hundred and fifty years have passed since the Unification of Italy and the establishment of L’Osservatore Romano . The celebration of this mutual anniversary began in 2011 and will soon be concluding. On this occasion the Italian State Archives, in collaboration with our newspaper, sponsored an exhibition entitled: “State and Church in Italy from the Risorgimento to our time. 150 years after the Unification of Italy and the founding of L’Osservatore Romano ”.

The documents and photographs on display in Palazzo Giustiniani retrace some of the salient moments in the history of both Italy and the Vatican beginning in 1861. The exhibition was inaugurated in Rome on Wednesday afternoon, 7 March, in the presence of Vatican representatives and members of the Italian government.

Before the formal inauguration in the Hall of the Presidents, Professor Giovanni Maria Vian, the Editor-in-Chief of L’Osservatore Romano , showed the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Italian Senate Renato Schifani, Prime Minister Mario Monti and Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone through the exhibition in Zuccari Hall of Palazzo Giustiniani. The curators of the exhibition Emilia Campochiaro, head of the historical Archives of the Senate, and our colleague at the newspaper Raffaele Alessandrini, were also present. The visit lasted much longer than anticipated due to President Napolitano’s genuine interest in the material on display.

Following this private tour, the President of Senate, our Editor-in-Chief and the Secretary of State spoke at the formal inauguration. Among the many present were various representatives of the Senate, ministers of government, the Ambassador of Italy to the Holy See Francesco Maria Greco, Secretary General of the Governorate Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca and the Director General of the L’Osservatore Romano Don Sergio Pellini, sdb.

Mr Renato Schifani began by citing the history of the relationship between Church and State and recalled “the turbulent beginning of the relations between the Italian State and the Catholic Church” and the long path which followed of re-establishing relations between the two institutions.

“As President of the Senate”, Schifani continued, “I would like to recall in particular the visit of the Holy Father John Paul II to the Parliament to the meeting at Montecitorio, and more recently the Cardinal Secretary of State’s presence at the Christmas concert in the Senate, which is now a tradition”. It was on the late Pope’s Visit to the Senate on 24 November 2002 that he declared: “Truly deep is the bond that exists between the Holy See and Italy!”.

Schifani concluded with the wish that the exhibition make a special impact on the visitors, especially the youth, in contribution to the understanding of the history of Church and State relations.

Cardinal Bertone then took the floor and underlined that the Holy Father himself asked him to pass on his best wishes to “the beloved Italian nation and for all those who serve in its institutions”. The Secretary of State spoke about the establishment of the Pope’s newspaper stating that “the intention” of the newspaper was to give life to a paper affirming the Pontiff’s position and his temporal power, at that dramatic juncture in Italian history”. He continued stating that the new newspaper should have been called “Friend of the truth” however it was wisely given two mottos in Latin: Unicuique suum (to each his own) and Non praevalebunt (they [the gates of hell] shall not prevail), which marries the classical and Christian traditions.

“The almost perfect coincidence of the 15oth anniversary of the Unification of the Italy and the newspaper is truly significant”, he continued. It is a newspaper which showed “the attention and the friendship of the Holy See for the Italian nation, in a relationship that today is represented at the highest level by consideration and mutual respect” that exist between the President of the Republic and the Supreme Pontiff.

The exhibition — which includes materials from the Secretariat of State, the Vatican Secret Archives, Italian Senate Archives, the Senate Library, Central Archives of the Italian State, and the Archives of L’Osservatore Romano — runs until 17 March, marking exactly one year since the country began celebrating this anniversary of the birth of the Kingdom of Italy. ( Elizabeth Simari )

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