Sylvia Poggioli

Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's international desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia and how immigration has transformed European societies.

Since joining NPR's foreign desk in 1982, Poggioli has traveled extensively for reporting assignments. Most recently, she travelled to Norway to cover the aftermath of the brutal attacks by an ultra-rightwing extremist; to Greece, Spain, and Portugal for the latest on the euro-zone crisis; and the Balkans where the last wanted war criminals have been arrested.

In addition, Poggioli has traveled to France, Germany, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, and Denmark to produce in-depth reports on immigration, racism, Islam, and the rise of the right in Europe.

Throughout her career Poggioli has been recognized for her work with distinctions including: the WBUR Foreign Correspondent Award, the Welles Hangen Award for Distinguished Journalism, a George Foster Peabody and National Women's Political Caucus/Radcliffe College Exceptional Merit Media Awards, the Edward Weintal Journalism Prize, and the Silver Angel Excellence in the Media Award. Poggioli was part of the NPR team that won the 2000 Overseas Press Club Award for coverage of the war in Kosovo. In 2009, she received the Maria Grazia Cutulli Award for foreign reporting.

In 2000, Poggioli received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Brandeis University. In 2006, she received an honorary degree from the University of Massachusetts at Boston together with Barack Obama.

Prior to this honor, Poggioli was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences "for her distinctive, cultivated and authoritative reports on 'ethnic cleansing' in Bosnia." In 1990, Poggioli spent an academic year at Harvard University as a research fellow at Harvard University's Center for Press, Politics, and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government.

From 1971 to 1986, Poggioli served as an editor on the English-language desk for the Ansa News Agency in Italy. She worked at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. She was actively involved with women's film and theater groups.

The daughter of Italian anti-fascists who were forced to flee Italy under Mussolini, Poggioli was born in Providence, Rhode Island, and grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She graduated from Harvard College with a Bachelor's degree in Romance languages and literature. She later studied in Italy under a Fulbright Scholarship.

As Europe reels from the effects of the United Kingdom's Brexit vote, there's fresh anxiety about another referendum coming up in a major EU country.

It won't be a vote on whether to remain or leave the European Union, but on Italy's constitutional reform package. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi says the reforms — which would simplify and accelerate the passage of laws — are long overdue and will finally bring an end to decades of his country's notorious revolving-door governments.

Pope Francis begins a visit to Armenia on Friday, one of the "peripheries" of the world that are dear to him. He arrived in the capital, Yerevan, on Friday afternoon, and will spend three days in the small country whose geography made it a land of conquest by powerful empires and whose people have greatly suffered for their Christian religion.

The visit will highlight the strong ecumenical ties between the majority Orthodox and smaller Catholic Christian communities, as well as promote reconciliation in a tense region that straddles Europe, the Middle East and Russia.

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All across the Mediterranean, early Christian frescoes and bas reliefs carry the names of women deacons and even bishops — such as Phoebe, Helaria, Ausonia, Euphemia and Theodora.

Yet in 1994, Pope John Paul II not only decreed that women are definitively excluded from the priesthood, he even banned all discussion of the topic.

Pope Francis broke that taboo last month when he announced he would create a commission to study whether women can serve as deacons as they did in early Christianity.

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In Rome's vast Piazza del Popolo, two uniformed men try to help a German tourist with directions. And, as is all too common in Rome, instructions get lost in translation.

But it's the men's uniforms that leave the woman more perplexed. The cops assisting her are not Italian. They're Chinese.

They're part of an unprecedented experiment in which Italian and Chinese police are working together this month on joint patrols on the streets of Rome and Milan.

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When Pope Francis travels to the Greek island of Lesbos on Saturday, he will likely bring with him a sharp rebuke for Europe's response to the migrant crisis.

The town of Riace lies near the toe of Italy's boot. Small shops line its winding, cobblestone streets. It's perched on a hilltop, a typical medieval village with a church at its center.

But there is nothing typical about Riace's people. Out of a population of 1,800, 450 are former refugees. Their children outnumber native Italians at the local school. Riace now calls itself a global village, whose residents come from more than 20 countries beyond Europe.

A private funeral is being held Friday in Fiumicello, the northern Italian hometown of a doctoral student whose badly battered body was found Feb. 3 on the outskirts of Egypt's capital, Cairo.

The case has sparked outrage among Italians — who suspect Egyptian security forces were involved.

Same-sex marriage or civil unions are legal throughout Western Europe, including many traditionally Catholic countries. The last holdout is Italy, where the Senate is about to take up a bill on Thursday that would legalize civil unions — though it would not authorize gay marriage.

Tens of thousands of Italians took to the streets last weekend in some 100 cities demanding legalization of civil unions, including those of gay and lesbian couples.

"Italy, it's time to wake up," they shouted.

In winter, Rome has one of the mildest climates among European cities. It attracts not only off-season tourists, but also migratory birds such as starlings, which may be outliving their welcome.

For much of the day, Rome's visiting starling population feeds in olive groves in the countryside. Well-fed, they start making their presence in the city known in midafternoon.

That's when walking under tree-lined streets becomes dangerous.

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A half-century ago, 40 bishops from around the world gathered in an ancient Roman church and signed a pledge to forsake worldly goods and live like the neediest among their flock.

They were in Rome for the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the deliberations that opened the Catholic Church to the modern world.

The bishops' all but forgotten pledge, known as the Pact of the Catacombs, has gained new resonance with Pope Francis' vision of a church for the poor.

On Thursday, Maamoun Abdulkarim came to address the Italian Parliament regarding the plight of Syria's 10,000 archaeological sites. Italy has been active in helping protect antiquities in conflict zones.

Abdulkarim, the head of Syria's antiquities agency, says that 99 percent of museum collections — some 300,000 museum pieces — have been salvaged, but civil war has still caused massive damage.

Thursday marked the 50th anniversary of the issuance of the most radical document by the Second Vatican Council.

It's called Nostra Aetate, or "In Our Times," and it opened up relations between Catholicism and non-Christian religions. The landmark document repudiated anti-Semitism and the charge that Jews were collectively guilty for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Vatican Synod Ends

Oct 25, 2015
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Inside the Vatican City, a contentious bishops meeting has come to a close. The bishops were hashing out big issues like how the church deals with divorce and gay marriage. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli says progressives and conservatives scored points.

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About half an hour after takeoff from Philadelphia and a grueling, nine-day visit to Cuba and the United States, Pope Francis looked tired Sunday night when he appeared before reporters. He suffers from sciatica, and it was visible this week that he was having difficulty walking up stairs and standing for a long time.

Nevertheless, he took questions for close to an hour.

The pope was asked about an issue that had angered victims of clerical sex abuse: Why did he choose to show strong compassion for American bishops in one of his first speeches in the U.S.?

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