In a piece in this morning's G2, the Guardian reveal that life at L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's official newspaper, is . . . pretty much like life at any small newspaper, really. Okay, so it's hardly the scoop of the year when you put it that way, but it's an interesting story nonetheless, because it describes how the paper's editor, Gian Maria Vian, has set about making it "present in the cultural debate" - a directive he received straight from Benedict XVI when he was appointed in 2007.
Mostly this seems to involve running articles which say things you wouldn't quite expect a Vatican paper to say, but are actually not that controversial. Just last week the paper, to roughly summarise, ran pieces stating that Oscar Wilde and Harry Potter are quite good, despite their respective penchants for men and witchcraft. And it even climbed aboard the Michael Jackson bandwagon by declaring that the departed King of Pop was a legend who would "never die" in the imaginations of his fans.
The paper's liberalised editorial direction (apparently it was really boring before Vian came along) has led to many changes in the way it operates, with Vian even appointing a female journalist to fulfil the Pope's desire for L'Osservatore to find "more space for women". We also learn that Benedict either has a keen eye for newspaper design, or doesn't like to deal with too many words, as Vian reveals that he expressed a desire "to see a few more pictures in it".
And Vian's a bit of a gag man too – during a recent interview with an American magazine he quipped: "It's my publisher, the owner, who is infallible, not me".
With jokes like that, we could almost offer him a column in New Humanist.