Does Your Newspaper Need Help? Get Thou a Pontiff

One-time Vatican Rag Sees New Life Under Demanding Publisher, The Pope

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One of the lesser-known accomplishments of the first three years of Pope Benedict XVI's reign has been to breathe life into the Vatican's paper of record, L'Osservatore Romano. Once mainly the known for religious tracts and not having any ads, the broadsheet's got a new editor and a new direction that involves more coverage of the corporeal world and its all-too-human events, like the international financial crisis.

The newfound direction, handed down by the Pope and covered in the Wall Street Journal recently, has given new hope to a paper that has seen reader interest and advertiser support totally erode over the decades. A lot of that means expanding the paper's purview outside Rome, though there also less radical changes, such as publishing more articles written by women. The new editor, Giovanni Maria Vian, is working with relative editorial independence, even if stories on hot-button issues are still vetted by a Vatican official.

Apparently few topics are off-limits. And some tackled by the L'Osservatore are even a bit trippy. The Journal, for instance, quotes a piece bu top Vatican astronomer. Father Jose Gabriel Funes on whether we're alone in the universe. "If we consider earthly creatures as 'brother' and 'sister,' why cannot we also speak of an 'extraterrestrial brother'?

Could a sufficiently pious E.T. make it into heaven? "Jesus has been incarnated once, for everyone," opined Father Funes.
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