The first issue of L'Osservatore Romano came out in Rome on 1 July 1861, a few months after the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed (17 March 1861). The publication's aim was clearly apologetical, in defence of the Papal States, and it was deliberately polemical and propagandist. The newspaper took the name of a previous private pamphlet (5 September 1849 - 2 September 1852), directed by Fr Francesco Battelli and financed by a French Catholic legitimist group.
The birth of L'Osservatore Romano is closely linked to the defeat in battle suffered by the papal troops at Castelfidardo (8 September 1860). Indeed, after this event, while the Pontiff's temporal power was forcibly reduced in terms of territorial coverage and it did not seem as though there were a power in the whole of Europe to defend it, a large of number of Catholic intellectuals began to arrive in Rome with the firm intent of putting themselves at the service of Pius IX.
The idea of a private daily publication which would vindicate the Pontifical State and the values it championed began to gain favour among the pontifical authorities who were determined to restore the status quo ante.
Already by 20 July 1860, the deputy Minister of the Interior, Marcantonio Pacelli, wanted to supplement the official bulletin, the Giornale di Roma, with a polemical and militant publication of a semi-official kind called L'Amico della Verità. The draft of the project required time and it probably reached the ears of the Marquis Augusto Baviera, already a well-known journalist and fellow citizen of Pius IX, who that same summer (19 August) had requested permission to publish a fortnightly periodical, more about culture than politics, which was to take the old name of L'Osservatore, directed by Battelli.
In early 1861, Nicola Zanchini, a famous controversialist from Forlì, came to ask the Pontifical Government's help. He and another exile, the vivacious journalist Giuseppe Bastia who had arrived from Bologna, were granted direction of the newspaper planned by Pacelli. It was 22 June 1861 when the Pontifical Minister of the Interior, in charge of the press, received a manuscript signed by the petitioners Zanchini and Bastia, seeking permission to publish. Two days later, the proposal was already being discussed by the Council of Ministers. Finally, on 26 June, at the papal Audience, Pius IX gave his approval to the regulations of L'Osservatore.
Here are some of the articles:
Art. 1: The paper handed over to the lawyers, Mr Nicola Zanchini and Mr Giuseppe Bastia, will be called L'Osservatore Romano - and will be published with progressive issues to make up bound volumes. It will be published on the days and at the times established in the association's memorandum of intent, in which the format of the paper, the quality of the characters, the price and other conditions of the above-mentioned association will also be specified.
Art. 2: The newspaper will pursue the following aims:
1 - to reveal and to refute the calumnies unleashed against Rome and the Roman Pontificate;
2 - to make known the most remarkable daily events occurring in Rome and elsewhere;
3 - to recall the firm principles of the Catholic religion and those of justice and the law, as the stable foundations of any kind of social existence;
4 - to educate on duties to the nation;
5 - to inspire and promote the veneration of the august Sovereign and Pontiff;
6 - to collect and illustrate all that deserves public attention in the arts, literature and sciences, and especially inventions and relative applications of achievements in the Pontifical States.