John L. Allen Jr.: A reminder of when giants roamed the earth, and covered the Vatican

(Crux) When you’re just starting out on a career path, there’s a tendency to look for role models. You find someone you think does the job well, and try to pattern yourself after that person. Over time, of course, you find you own way of doing things, but the imprint of that early influence never really goes away.

For me as a Vatican correspondent, one of those role models was always Orazio Petrosillo, the renowned vaticanista of the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, who died in 2007.

This week in Rome, Petrosillo’s daughter Marta organized a memorial for her father on the tenth anniversary of his death in a bookshop near the Vatican, and in many ways walking into that room was like stepping into a time machine and returning to an era when giants roamed the earth.

There was Luigi Accattoli, the former Vatican writer for Corriere della Sera, and Marco Politi, who covered the Vatican for La Repubblica, both already legends by the time I arrived on the scene in the late 1990s. That was the peak of the St. John Paul II era, when Joaquin Navarro-Valls was in his prime as the papal spokesman, such an insider that at times he seemed more akin to a chief of staff than a mere mouthpiece. [More]