Celebrating one year of ‘L’Osservatore di Strada’

‘Hitting the streets’ together

 ‘Hitting the streets’ together  ING-027
07 July 2023

Thursday, 29 June, was the first birthday of the latest addition to “L’Osservatore Romano”: the monthly “L’Osservatore di Strada”. This publication has drawn continuous inspiration from Pope Francis: we could say, “before, during and after” its creation. On that day one year ago, after praying the Angelus, Pope Francis addressed the pilgrims who filled a sunny Saint Peter’s Square, saying, “Today the first issue of ‘L’Osservatore di Strada’, the new monthly magazine of ‘L’Osservatore Romano’, is being distributed here in the square. In this newspaper those who are least become protagonists: in fact, poor and marginalised people participate in the editorial work, writing, allowing themselves to be interviewed, illustrating the pages of this monthly magazine, which is offered free of charge. If anyone wants to give something they can give it voluntarily, but take it freely because it is a beautiful work that comes from the grassroots, from the poor, as an expression of those who are marginalised”. These words illustrate non only the meaning, but also the modality — in a certain sense, the “style” — of this monthly publication which seeks to put people in the physical and existential “peripheries” at the centre. It is not only a newspaper “for” the poor but “with” the poor; not just charity but also social redemption. But in order to more effectively understand the profound meaning of this project, which was born gratuitously (and it has been this way for a year, with its joyful occasions of nice surprises and always reaching new heights) it may be valuable to re-listen to the Pope’s closing remarks in his address to the artists gathered around him inside the Sistine Chapel, on Thursday, 23 June: “I have one more thing to say to you, something close to my heart. I would like to ask you not to forget the poor, those especially close to the heart of Christ, those affected by all of today’s many forms of poverty. The poor too have need of art and beauty. Some are living lives of great hardship, and so have even greater need of this. Usually, they have no voice to make themselves heard. You can choose to become the interpreters of their silent plea”.

Precisely so: there are many ways in which one can be poor today. The adventure of “L’Osservatore di Strada” demonstrates this in the way it developed throughout this intense year, rich in encounters, discoveries, challenges. And we know but forget that the poor do not have a voice. They are the true “invisibles” of society. Without meaning to sound arrogant, it is a newspaper, not art — at most, an example of good craftsmanship. We could say that the effort that inspired and continues to inspire this adventure is the one portrayed perfectly by the Pope: to become interpreters of their silent cry. Seeking to do so with the spirit of Emmaus, that is, to do as Jesus does: to walk down the streets of mankind, entering into their conversations and giving them meaning, accompanying and encouraging them, in the hope of succeeding in making their hearts burn. Looking into the eyes of Mimmo, Fabrizio, Lia, Stefano, Annamaria, who are there in the Square every Sunday, gratuitously offering “their” newspaper, it seems we have succeeded. The results encourage us to press on and continue on the journey, with a trusting and grateful spirit.

Andrea Monda