Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari, 1924-2022 Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari, 1924-2022  (AFP or licensors)

Pope on Scalfari: I remember our conversations with affection

Pope Francis has expressed his condolences on hearing of the death, at age 98, of Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari, the founder of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, which he edited for 20 years.

By Giancarlo La Vella

A central figure in Italian journalism, during and even after his departure from the editorship of the daily newspaper La Repubblica, with which his name is inextricably linked. Born in Civitavecchia in 1924, Eugenio Scalfari passed away in Rome at the age of 98. A statement from Matteo Bruni, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, said that Pope Francis learned “with sorrow of the passing of his friend.” Pope Francis, the statement continued, “cherishes with affection the memory of the meetings — and the deep conversations on the ultimate questions of humankind — that he had with him over the years, and he entrusts his soul to the Lord in prayer, so that He may receive him and console those who were close to him.”

From the beginning of his career, Scalfari was an important protagonist in the world of communication, to which he contributed in innovative ways through the two publications he directed: the weekly L’Espresso and especially the newspaper La Repubblica, which he founded in 1976 and which soon provoked great popular interest.

Scalfari was remembered not only as a journalist, but as an all-around man of culture. He published several books, beginning with Il labirinto (“The Labyrinth), published in 1998.

The messages of condolence

There were immediate expressions of condolence from the spheres of journalism, culture, and politics on the death of who was a leader in his work as a communicator. Among the first messages was that of Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who said in a statement that he was “particularly saddened by the death of Eugenio Scalfari, journalist, editor, essayist, politician, lucid and passionate witness of our republican history.” Scalfari, Mattarella continued, “has always been an engaging reference point for generations of journalists, intellectuals, politicians, and a very large number of readers.

“Always a convinced advocate of ethics in society and renewal in public life, he had masterfully dedicated himself, in recent times, to the great existential themes of mankind with his usual effectiveness and depth of reflection,” the head of state concluded.

Leading figures in the Church likewise offered their condolences. “I remember with esteem and friendship Eugenio Scalfari, the founder of La Repubblica,” wrote Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi in a tweet. The Cardinal remembered him as “a protagonist of secular culture,” saying, “I keep in my memories our passionate dialogue in 2013, in the true spirit of the ‘Courtyard of the Gentiles,’ on the challenges and future of information.”

The talks with the Pope

After his election to the Chair of St. Peter, Pope Francis corresponded with Eugenio Scalfari and had a conversation with him on the relationship between faith and secularism, published in a volume by Einaudi-La Repubblica — a dialogue, albeit from two different positions, which attracted the attention of the general public.

Responding directly to Scalfari, Pope Francis wrote on 4 September 2013 in La Repubblica to the creator of the newspaper as follows: “The Church, believe me, despite all the slowness, infidelity, errors and sins that it may have committed and may still commit in those who make it up, has no other sense and purpose than to live and bear witness to Jesus.” The director of Civiltà Cattolica, Father Antonio Spadaro, remarked, “I have always been struck by the style of his interlocution with the Pontiff.”

14 July 2022, 16:49