BALTIMORE — For the first time, the Vatican newspaper's presses are rolling outside of Rome--and beginning operations in Baltimore.
Cardinal William H. Keeler said Monday that the premiere issue of the weekly English-language edition of L'Osservatore Romano, the organ of Pope John Paul II's speeches and writings, was sent to 2,500 subscribers in the United States last week by the Cathedral Foundation, the center of Catholic Church works in Baltimore.
The cardinal noted the city's central role in American Catholic history. "Baltimore is the place where the Catholic Church in the U.S. began organizationally" in 1789, he said.
The oldest Catholic cathedral in the United States is the Basilica of the Assumption on Cathedral Street downtown, dating from 1806.
Now, nearly two centuries later, Internet technology is being used to deliver the pope's official publication faster to American readers.
"The idea that someone can make a page in Rome and download it to us in Baltimore is incredible," said Daniel Medinger, chief executive officer of the Cathedral Foundation. "It's the tradition of the church to use technology to spread the Gospel."
The Baltimore foundation will not exercise any editorial control over the content of L'Osservatore Romano, Medinger said.
The weekly, in the format of a 12-page tabloid, is scheduled to be printed and mailed every Wednesday, reaching North American readers more rapidly than it previously did by air or ship from Rome. A yearly subscription costs $151.
Pope John Paul, 77, who speaks 10 languages and reads Latin, is known for his prodigious writings. He writes in his native Polish, translated into Italian for publication in the daily edition of L'Osservatore Romano in Rome.
The premiere issue printed in Baltimore is full of the pope's New Year's reflections, including a simple peace prayer addressed to heads of state: "From the justice of each comes peace for all."
Most of the Vatican newspapers are circulated to priests, nuns and others in full-time church work, Keeler said. But because there are about 60 million Catholics in the United States, "there is room for significant growth and marketing creativity," Medinger said.