Timothy Mime meets lion Antonio Tarria, editor of the Italian magazine, Jesus.
THE MOST surprising publishing-curn-journalistic adventure in post-war Italy is that of a monthly magazine with the unequivocal title of "Jesus" which — says its editor, don, Antonio Tarzia — has "all the courage of a yell." • It has needed it. Like its namesake, the magazine has had a controversial, often stormy career. One Milanese publication warned readers against the "Christian revolution" which "Jesus" is fomenting.
In another attack a contributor to Osservatore della Domenica claimed that "Jesus" had been created by big money to make more big money. This set off a controversy which according to don Antonio reached Paul VI, "However, the fact remains that another and highly eulogistic article promptly appeared in the Osservatore Romano, the
Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, as archbishop of Cracow. was an enthusiastic supporter of "Jesus". He had agreed to write a series but an unexpected conclave caused the project to he abandoned. But his support continues. When don Antonio presented him with a special oneprint edition of all the back numbers he told the editor: "Never cease giving Christ — the integral Christ."
In fact, he and his editorial staff of three, often work round the clock to produce it.
Don Antonio is, so to speak. the adoptive father of "Jesus". It started life with French parents as a series on Christ in Palestine which the Pauline Sisters bought to insert in another publication.
Don Antonio took the project in hand and turned it into an unexpected and often unorthodox history oldie Church which has lasted for three years.
"Jesus" is a journalistic sandwich with two slices of topical articles enclosing a glossy insert. I he "bread" includes a regular "Dialogue on Jesus" in which interviewees have included people of various creeds and persuasions as well as leading Catholic figures like Cardinal Suenens and theologian Karl Rahner.
Until last December, the glossy insert dealt with the history of the Church. 1.ast January a new twoyear series started, going through the Old Testament. The events reported in the Old Testament are presented, not only from a Christian point of view. but also as seen by the Koran and Hebrew Midrash. This reflects a deeply felt conviction of don Antonio. "If the charism of God has willed us to he different," he said, "who am I to allow only a single voice to be heard?"
This conviction has made itself felt in "Jesus" from the beginning. "Whenever we have dealt with other churches, I have always had the articles written by one of their members."
The Church of England was presented by the Anglican bishop of Chelmsford. John Trillo with Malcolm Muggeridge on Thomas More and James Packer on Cranmer.
In the end, according to don Antonio, the responsibility of choice rests with the reader. "Obviously, I don't approve of schism which is like taking a leg from the body. The Church of Christ is holy and any persuasion must lose in sanctity proportionately to the distance it moves away from it."
This same attitude is apparent in what he calls the "lay ecumenicalism" of "Jesus" which caused him to commission an article by Argan, the Communist former mayor of Rome.
Don Antonio's markedly individual contribution to Italian journalism has predictably produced enthusiasm and protest. Equally predictably perhaps, all the protest comes from the political right. But do, the Marxists read "Jesus"? According to its editor they do — in large numbers. "They lose nothing by it," he said, "and they gain in humanity."