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From the provinces but not in the least provincial

· From archival research emerge for the first time the biographical features of Giuseppe Bastia, the first editor-in-chief with Nicola Zanchini of 'L'Osservatore Romano' ·

His figure and history also show the vitality of the Catholic presence in the regions of Emilia and Romagna

Giuseppe Bastia was a convinced Catholic and the “intransigent” companion of Nicola Zanchini in the foundation and editorship of L'Osservatore Romano . That he was born in the now distant 1827 in Cento, today in the Province of Ferrara – in a house that stood opposite the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, seems, as it were, a powerful sign indicating the way his life would take. It was in front of this church, a casket containing testimonies of the art of Il Guercino, one of the great painters, in which the people of Cento had expressed their devotion down the ages, that Giuseppe Ercole Bastia was born on 28 December 1827. Together with Zanchini, who came from Forlì, Bastia was to have the courage to fight a harsh battle for the Church and for the Pope by way of journalism and news.

Moreover, like Zanchini, Bastia also came from territories of the so-called “former legations”, and in his case, the former Legation of Ferrara. After the victorious campaign of the French and the Piedmontese against the Austrians in 1859, Ferrara was to be torn from the Pope and incorporated into the nascent Kingdom of Italy. Bastia's figure and history confirm for us the existence of a rather important context of lay people, who cannot be written off as isolated champions of the Pope; rather, they were signs of the vitality of the Catholic presence. This puts paid to the ideologically pampered and totalizing image that simply awards these regions of Emilia and Romagna the prize for anticlericalism.

The collapse of the papal regime in the territories of Emilia and Romagna determined a strong surge of tension between the Church and the authorities of the nascent united Italian State. With his sound legal training and his lawyer's skills, Bastia took part in the front line in that turbulent season which the Church in Bologna was living through.

His role in defending the Catholic side in court and his authorship of an article in which he expressed his support of the last Bourbon resistance in the Fortress of Gaeta against the troops of Victor Emanuel II resulted in creating a very hostile atmosphere around Bastia by the most anticlerical public opinion. This impelled him to leave the former papal territories to go to Rome where, with Zanchini, he embarked on the venture of L'Osservatore Romano.

Yet it is more likely that this decision was determined by his conviction of the need to develop a more determined commitment to defending the Church's freedom which he considered was seriously threatened by the attack on the temporal power of the Pope.

As a lively polemicist, the future founder of L'Osservatore Romano fought to defend the role and rights of the Church and of the Pope . Proof of this is his Il Dominio temporale dei papi dal 1815 al 1846, a paper published in Bologna in 1890, a few years after his death, a sign of the strong inclination and conviction that motivated him constantly throughout his life.

Bastia and his colleague Zanchini are clear examples of personalities who – with a mindset and approach that had nothing whatsoever provincial about them – were capable of bringing out a newspaper such as L'Osservatore Romano , that was instantly characterized by modern and dynamic journalistic techniques and by a great and passionate openness to the knowledge and discussion of what the situation in their time presented.

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