Dr. Janez – Ivan Gnidovec from the Congregation of the Mission of Slovenia was appointed Bishop of Skopje in 1924. For several years until his arrival, this diocese had been without a shepherd. In fact, in the spirit of the so-called. Serbian Concordat, Skopje Archbishopric was abolished in favor of Belgrade. According to this reform, Dr. Gnidovec became the first Bishop of Skopje, with residence in Prizren.
Besides today’s Macedonia and Kosmet, the entirety of Sandžak and a part of Montenegro came under the new Skopje Diocese. In addition to caring for the old Catholic parish in this vast area, it now became necessary to keep pastoral care of the people who were settled here by force of circumstance in the postwar years. There was a very small number of liturgical objects and, of course, not enough priests. We had to find some way to keep at least some connection between the parish centers and scattered believers. Then bishop Gnidovec, along with Skopje Jesuit pastor Franjo Jambreković, and his Provincial father Prešeren concluded that a parish gazette that would be the link between the pastor and believers in diaspora should be established in Skopje.
At the beginning of Lent 1928, the idea matured and it was decided that the newspaper must be out by Easter. Preliminary work was completed just before the holiday, which gave father Buković, Jamberković’s assistant, the idea to name the paper Blagovest (Annunciation). He also wrote an introductory article in which he explained the goal of the newspaper. The topic of this issue was the celebration of Easter. The first issue was published in 500 copies and had only four pages. It was sent in envelopes to all known believers in diaspora. It is interesting that the second issue, which was released in April 1928, published a picture and a short biography of Blessed Ozana of Kotor.
Soon however, various problems arose. A complaint was sent by the Skopje ethnic Albanian believers, who demanded that the newspaper have something written in their mother tongue. Although this problem was almost impossible to solve at the time, a poem was published in Albanian language. The fact that in the southern regions, Latin script was very poorly known among adults, and especially among the young posed a problem as well. However, the good will and sublime goals found a solution, as always. In the spirit of these principles, a significant number of articles in Cyrillic script started being published in Blagovest.
According to the regulations of the Serbian Concordat and the requirements of both the Holy See and the state authorities, Bishop Gnidovec moved the bishop’s residence from Prizren to Skopje in 1934. However, the Jesuits then left this city. As one of the humblest among numerous religious journals in the former Yugoslavia, the newspaper Blagovest was therefore to be discontinued. However, at the request of Bishop Gnidovec, the new chaplain of Skopje and diaspora Alojz Turk, took over the editorial board of the journal and began to take care of its publishing. Other priests from Skopje Diocese were included in the editorial council, especially Msgr. Kordin, director of a small seminary in Prizren Branko Dorčić and Janjevo pastor Viktor Zakrajšek. They expanded the contents of the newspaper as well, because Blagovest had many more tasks before itself. In fact, the believers who lived in non-Catholic environment, and who were away from their spiritual centres, were supposed to be taught by Blagovest about the new circumstances that they were not used to. It was supposed to strengthen and teach them about the most important truths of faith, and at the same time direct them towards the brotherly relationship with those who were full of prejudice towards Catholics and Catholicism, and to provide the believers with all important information. In this way, the work on mutual understanding and rapprochement slowly began. The average monthly circulation reached 2500 copies. Printing was done manually, in the beginning in Dimitrijević pressroom, and later in Bitolj.
Although the establishment of the newspaper was followed by numerous problems, as time passed the situation changed for the better. Interest in Blagovest grew, and therefore the number of subscribers. The number of interested readers from other parts of the country increased as well.
Otherwise, at the time, until the beginning of the World War II, the Archdiocese of Belgrade printed and published prayer books, hymnals, catechetical and calendars, and this activity continued in the post-war period as well. In 1935, the Archdiocese issued schematism entitled: Shematismus cleri Archidioceseos Beogradensis et Semendriensis, and for Catholics of German nationality in Belgrade St. Raphaelsblatt was published weekly.
As soon as the war started, editor of Blagovesti Rev. Turk had to go to the front as a mobilized military priest. The April issue, which had just been delivered from the printing office burned in the building of the Diocese which was hit and destroyed by a bomb on 6 April 1941. A while later, during the Bulgarian occupation the publishing of Blagovest was prohibited, but anyhow, it certainly would have been impossible because most believers had to leave Macedonia.
Very soon after the war, the renewal of the newspaper began. However, the Skopje-based printing business were overbooked because it was necessary to lay the foundations of the new Macedonian literary language. Therefore, the first post-war number of Blagovest was issued in Niš, in March 1946. The editorial council then was: Alojz Turk as chief editor, and Msgr. Viktor Zakrajšek, Dr. Janez Jenko and Dr. Milorad Avramović as members. Four issues were printed in Niš. Titled “Behind the war break”, the opening text for the revived Blagovest was written by Skopje Bishop Dr. Smiljan Čekada. It is an interesting fact that, at that time, in order to calm the tensions and improve the cooperation and rapprochement, the majority of articles were printed in Cyrillic script.
During 1946 Blagovest definitely moved to Belgrade, ant the publishing and editing was taken over by the Archdiocese consultor Dr. Janez Jenko until his appointment as the apostolic administrator of the Slovenian coast.
In the postwar years this newspaper continued to play a very important role in informing and educating Catholics in the country, especially because it had over a number of years been the only religious monthly newspaper of general character in Yugoslavia. This time the editorial board of Blagovest began to publish the first catechism and prayer books in several languages: in Serbian (in Cyrillic), Croatian, Slovenian and Macedonian.
They were searching for a way how to better nourish the church singing, but the Congregation of the Mission issued a hymnal in memory of 1100 year anniversary of the arrival of St. Cyril and Methodius (863-1963). The editorial office of Blagovest published the same songbook in 1972, also titled Blagovest. In addition to the songs in Croatian and Slovenian for the liturgical year and folk piety, this songbook contained a brief prayer book too.
After the departure of Dr. Janez Jenko, the word as ditor in chief of this newspaper was taken over by the Archbishop of Belgrade at the time, Msgr. Alojz Turk. Blagovest continued to evolve, but in December 1984, prior to his departure from Belgrade, the Archbishop Turk announced the termination of its printing and issuing.
… the Archbishop at the time, Msgr. Franc Perko and several other priests made a decision to give the newspaper back to the believers. Starting from then, its editors in chief were: Dr. Marko Čolić, father Zvonko Blaško, fra Leopold Rochmes and reverend Stjepan Barišić. New editors, and new young forces, brought Blagovest back the sources and it once again became the journal of the Archdiocese of Belgrade, the bridge that connected the parishes, came through to all believers and brought them news from the local Church, taught them the true faith and informed them about the events related for the Church in the world. It spoke to young people, children, open to a variety of new movements within the Church, paid great attention to ecumenism spreading its hands toward all who were in any way present in the framework of our coexistence.
In 2002, the archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini blessed the Catholic media center which today edits Blagovest and prepares different brochures and posters and a variety of books. In 2004, Belgrade Archbishop Hočevar, who since his arrival in Belgrade in 2000 provided great support to the development of this journal, started the publication of a new edition of books “The Third Millennium”. As the first in the series, a book entitled There are no two of Christ which contains a very inspiring lecture by Cardinal Walter Kasper was released.
Today Blagovest tends to be more adapted to new media laws. Our newspaper is very aware of the importance of the media in today’s society and therefore the media has to be imbued with the spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God in some way.
Blagovest is your newspaper,
so that each of you believers
through Blagovest may become “the annunciator of the Balkans”.