Listen

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. These include going to Norway to cover the aftermath of the brutal attacks by a right-wing extremist; to Greece, Spain, and Portugal reporting on the eurozone 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.

She has also travelled with Pope Francis on several of his foreign trips, including visits to Cuba, the United States, Congo, Uganda, Central African Republic, Myanmar, and Bangladesh.

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, 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 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.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

In Italy, Giuseppe Conte has resigned as prime minister of a coalition government after only about 14 months in power. His resignation throws Italy into a state of political uncertainty. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli is on the line from Italy. Hi, Sylvia.

Rome is known as the Eternal City. Over many centuries, it has been sacked by marauders and repeatedly resurrected from decline. But this summer, Roman residents are being tested by a massive trash crisis that has prompted doctors to warn of the possible spread of diseases as birds, vermin and wild animals scavenge amid the rotting refuse.

Already, flocks of cawing seagulls have replaced traffic roar as the soundtrack of Roman life.

Some 400 million people in 28 countries are eligible to vote in this week's elections for new representatives for the European Parliament — the only popularly elected European Union institution. It's normally a low-turnout affair, but this year, the Europe-wide result will be a crucial test of strength for nationalist and populist parties that want to remake the EU — and for those who oppose them.

Ahead of elections this week for a new European Parliament, 11 populist leaders rallied last Saturday in Milan's Piazza Duomo. They vowed to reassert their national sovereignty by wresting control from European Union bureaucrats headquartered in Brussels. Their host: Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy's far-right League party and Europe's rising populist star.

Appeals judges of the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia have upheld Radovan Karadzic's conviction for genocide in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre that claimed the lives of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys.

They also ruled that the 40-year sentence of Karadzic handed down in the first trial, in 2016, was too light given the gravity of the crimes.

Along with the late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Serbian army general Ratko Mladic, Karadzic was a key figure in the Bosnian war.

In February, Pope Francis acknowledged a longstanding dirty secret in the Roman Catholic Church — the sexual abuse of nuns by priests.

It's an issue that had long been kept under wraps, but in the #MeToo era, a #NunsToo movement has emerged, and now sexual abuse is more widely discussed.

Thursday at the Vatican, Pope Francis stood before some 200 participants in an unprecedented summit on preventing clergy sex abuse and said Catholics are seeking not simply "condemnations" but "concrete, effective measures."

But a crisis that has crossed borders and generations, lacerating the church and shaking the pope's credibility, is standing in the way as he seeks to forge a path ahead.

Every Sunday at noon, Pope Francis concludes his greeting to the crowd in St. Peter's Square by wishing them a good Sunday meal.

But the warm cheers for the pope from the crowd in the square contrast with strident commentary that can be heard outside Vatican walls.

In America, some politically conservative Catholics have long criticized Pope Francis for being pro-migrants, anti-capitalist and less rigid on doctrine than his two predecessors.

For centuries, the words "Vatican" and "intrigue" have gone hand in hand. But the Holy See's centuries-old code of secrecy ensured that scandals and conspiracies usually remained hidden behind the tall and sturdy Renaissance walls of the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, unbeknownst to the faithful masses around the world.

Now, in the era of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, mudslinging between rival church factions is being waged out in the open.

The official purpose of Pope Francis' visit to Ireland this weekend is to attend the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families held every three years.

But with multiple sexual abuse scandals buffeting the Catholic Church across the world, the two-day visit may turn out to be one of the most consequential trips of this papacy. The pope is under intense pressure to enact concrete measures to ensure accountability for church officials who ignored or covered up cases of clerical sex abuse.

After two days of silence and a barrage of criticism for failing to address the latest clergy sex abuse scandal in the United States, Pope Francis has spoken.

"The Holy See condemns unequivocally the sexual abuse of minors," said a statement issued by the Vatican on Thursday.

"Regarding the report made public in Pennsylvania this week, there are two words that can express the feelings faced with these horrible crimes: shame and sorrow," Vatican spokesman Greg Burke wrote.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

European Union leaders wrangled over migration policy reforms in an all-night meeting in Brussels. And one of the bloc's newest and loudest critics, the barely month-old government of Italy, is claiming a big win.

One of Rome's must-see sights is the Vatican's Sistine Chapel — but it's usually so packed, visitors have a hard time absorbing the majesty and beauty of the frescoes painted by Michelangelo.

Now there's a new spectacle in town, where visitors can sit comfortably in plush theater seats and feast their eyes on every detail of the Sistine's masterpieces.

Every Sunday when he is at the Vatican, Francis ends his remarks to the crowd in St. Peter's Square with a typical Italian saying: "Have a good lunch and arrivederci."

It's that common touch that has so endeared the Argentine-born pope to millions of people across the world, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, since his election five years ago, on March 13, 2013. But in recent months, Francis has also become the target of criticism on various fronts, and the image of him as charismatic reformer has suffered some hits.

The Italian political world has been struck by a populist tsunami — 50 percent of voters in Sunday's parliamentary elections chose candidates from anti-establishment, anti-immigrant and euroskeptic parties. However, no party amassed enough votes to form a government on its own, and this makes weeks of political instability likely while government negotiations are underway.

"Italy ungovernable," read a Monday headline in the daily La Stampa.

In Italy, polls ahead of Sunday's general elections suggest the maverick 5-Star Movement is more popular than any other party. Founded in 2009 on an anti-establishment platform by Beppe Grillo, a vitriolic comedian, it's setting its sights on heading Italy's next government.

5-Star claims to be an Internet-based direct democracy movement and has attracted many Italians disaffected with traditional parties. It's openly populist — with positions that are anti-immigration, anti-vaccination and anti-European Union.

A satirical movie that envisions dictator Benito Mussolini staging a comeback opened in Italy just as the campaign for March 4 general elections was getting underway. It has received rave reviews.

The mockumentary I'm Back is an Italian version of the 2015 German film, Look Who's Back, which envisioned the return of Adolf Hitler.

When Pope Francis visited Chile earlier this month, he lashed out at victims of sexual abuse and accused them of "calumny" regarding a bishop who is suspected of covering up abuse they endured by a pedophile priest.

The pope said there was "not a shred of evidence" against Chilean Bishop Juan Barros. "The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros," he said, "I'll speak."

Now the pope is sending a top envoy on a mission to Chile to look into survivors' claims.

In the months since allegations of sexual harassment by major media figures took center stage in the United States, the #MeToo movement has had a ripple effect in Europe, prompting national conversations on a once-taboo topic. In some countries, the movement has been embraced.

But in Italy, the public has largely reacted with scorn and skepticism.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Pope Francis visited Bangladesh today. And in a meeting with dignitaries, he called for them to care for the plight of refugees.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

POPE FRANCIS: (Speaking Italian).

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

On a recent Saturday in Rome, several thousand angry Italians marched through the streets of downtown. They came to protest a bill that would grant citizenship to children born in Italy to long-term resident foreigners.

Sara Polimeno came from the northern Piedmont region to demand a stop to migrants.

"There's an invasion of Muslims imposing their religion on us," said Polimeno. "They have different customs and culture and they're upsetting all our habits. They're demanding too much. Enough!"

Tourism is booming in Italy, which welcomed close to 50 million visitors over the summer. That has helped some places that have been struggling to survive. But for one destination, it might be too much of a good thing.

Civita di Bagnoregio is in the northern corner of the Lazio region, 75 miles north of Rome, tucked between Tuscany and Umbria.

On the road, signposts point the way to "Civita, The Town That Is Dying."

And in fact, not so long ago, Civita was at death's door — shrinking because of erosion and landslides and in need of constant restoration.

Large sections of Norcia's ancient walls lie in rubble. Its many centuries-old buildings are wrapped in steel girders, off-limits to the few people who visit what now looks like a ghost town.

Nearly 2,000 years after he held sway over ancient Rome, a notorious emperor is again causing outrage. The reason: Italian authorities approved construction of a massive stage amid the ruins over the Roman Forum for a rock opera about Nero, who ruled from 54 to 68 A.D.

Archaeologists and art historians are up in arms, denouncing what they see as the commercialization of the country's heritage.

During papal audiences with heads of state, the exchange of gifts comes after the private encounter and at the end of the event. It offers the press a chance to witness the body language of the two leaders and listen in as they explain their gifts.

It also offers a glimpse of what the two leaders think of each other.

For example, Pope Francis gave President Trump a large medallion depicting an olive branch as a symbol of peace.

The pope said, "I give this to you so that you can be an instrument of peace."

The president replied, "We can use peace."

Pages