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.

Pope Francis celebrated his first Easter Sunday Mass praying for world peace and urging a diplomatic solution to the standoff on the Korean peninsula.

Only two weeks after his election, the first pope from the developing world continues to make his mark on the Catholic Church.

St. Peter's Square was bedecked with flowers and packed with joyous pilgrims and tourists as Pope Francis celebrated Easter Mass.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. The case of Amanda Knox is not over. She's the American exchange student who was accused of murdering her British roommate in Italy. She was acquitted in 2011. But today, Italy's highest court overruled that acquittal. The court ordered Knox and her former boyfriend to be retried. As NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports, this reopens a case that drew international attention and sharp criticism of the Italian judicial system.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Let's turn to news this morning in Italy. In a surprise ruling, Italy's highest court has ordered a retrial of American Amanda Knox. She's the former exchange student who, along with her former boyfriend, was charged in the murder of her British roommate. Today's ruling overturned the 2011 acquittal of the two defendants after they spent four years in jail.

We're joined by NPR's Sylvia Poggioli on the line from Rome. Good morning, Sylvia.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: Good morning.

Pope Francis is formally inaugurated in a mass in St. Peter's Square Tuesday. Leaders from all over the world are attending. In less than a week, the pope has made himself known to the Catholic world and beyond for his direct and simple words and gestures.

Pope Francis' spent his first day as leader of the Roman Catholic Church on Thursday.

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This is a big week at the Vatican. The cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church will enter the Sistine Chapel tomorrow for a conclave to elect the next pope. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli is in Rome and has been talking with the faithful.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: Small groups of people wander through St. Peter's Square. There's a sense of excitement, but also trepidation. These pilgrims came all the way from Brazil. Sister Paola Schneider is praying the cardinals will be inspired to make the right choice.

As Roman Catholic cardinals prepare to elect the next pope, old-style Vatican secrecy has prevailed over American-style transparency.

Under pressure from Vatican-based cardinals, their American counterparts canceled their daily briefings that drew hundreds of news-starved journalists.

The clampdown was part of what is shaping up as a major confrontation over the future of the church between Vatican insiders and cardinals from the rest of the world.

Just an hour before the scheduled American briefing, an email announced it had been canceled.

Roman Catholic cardinals gathered Monday to plan how they will select the successor to Pope Benedict XVI.

The College of Cardinals is holding its first official meetings at the Vatican on Monday. The top agenda item is choosing which day to start the closed-door conclave that will elect the new pope. With no clear front-runner, the conclave outcome is unpredictable.

The papal resignation has put the cardinals in an unprecedented situation in modern history.

"The real mood is of shock and disappointment — this resignation desacralized the figure of the pope," says Massimo Franco, author of several books about the Vatican. He says a pope cannot be treated like a company CEO.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Pope Benedict XVI is now pope emeritus.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHURCH BELLS)

CORNISH: Bells tolled as Benedict left the Vatican by helicopter. Vatican TV followed the entire 15-minute flight to the papal summer residence.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

CORNISH: Once there, the people spoke to the large crowd that had gathered to greet him.

POPE BENEDICT XVI: (Foreign language spoken)

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

CORNISH: He said thank you and good night.

Today is the last day of the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI. Just two weeks ago, the German-born pope stunned the world by announcing he would be the first pope to resign in 600 years. After eight years on the throne of St. Peter, Benedict leaves behind a church in crisis.

Since the announcement, bulletins issued by the Vatican have ranged from the lofty — how Benedict will retire to a life dedicated to prayer and study — to the mundane, such as the details of packing the pope's personal belongings and what he'll leave behind.

On his last full day as Pope, Benedict XVI had his final general audience in St. Peter's Square before a crowd estimated at 150,000 people. He had a more personal message than usual, saying his resignation was dictated by his ailing health and declining speech. He spoke of the moments of joy in his papacy, but also of turbulent seas and rough winds when it seemed like the lord was sleeping.

Italian elections have hurled a tsunami against the system: An upstart anti-establishment party that rejects European Union-dictated austerity measures is now the single biggest party in Parliament. Newspaper headlines proclaim the country ungovernable, and world financial markets are spooked by the prospect of gridlock in the eurozone's third-largest economy.

Thanks to a byzantine election law, the center-left Democratic Party came in first by a slim majority. But it can't govern alone.

Italy's election campaign has been dominated by an upstart comedian-turned-politician whose Five Star Movement is soaring in the polls. The movement is not expected to win in the weekend vote, but its strong presence in Parliament could be destabilizing and reignite the eurozone crisis.

Beppe Grillo is a standup comedian and the country's most popular blogger; 63 years old, with a mane of grey curly hair, he's hyperactive and foul-mouthed. His last name means "cricket," and he's the most charismatic politician in Italy today.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer. In Italy, elections begin this coming Sunday and voters appear disoriented by a motley array of parties. Even political analysts are finding it difficult to explain how the disgraced former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has managed to resurrect himself.

NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports that he's pulled his rightist coalition into second place, just behind the center-left Democratic Party.

Three years of spiraling economic crisis in Greece have devastated every sector of the economy. The Greek media are among the hardest hit. Many newspapers and TV outlets have closed or are on the verge, and some 4,000 journalists have lost their jobs.

Many people believe the country's news media have failed to cover the crisis — and lost credibility along the way. And many Greek journalists acknowledge that a massive conflict of interest sooner or later had to explode.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

Pope Benedict XVI made his first public appearance today since announcing his resignation. He will be the first pope to step down in 600 years. Today, Benedict told thousands of faithful that he's confident his decision will not harm the church.

NPR's Sylvia Poggioli has our story.

On April 19, 2005, when wisps of white smoke puffed from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel, the Roman Catholic Church had its first German pope since the 11th century.

Just one day before his election as Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger delivered a homily that, many analysts later said, became the platform of his papacy.

He denounced modern trends he said were undermining Catholicism and Western civilization.

The first German pope in a thousand years is a cold, distant intellectual who never served as a parish priest. Cardinal Ratzinger, the Vatican Enforcer, became Pope Benedict XVI. As successor to John Paul II, Benedict was never as beloved by the faithful but still attracted crowds matching those of his media-savvy predecessor.

Pilgrims and tourists visiting the Vatican received a special treat Saturday, when some 4,000 members of the Knights of Malta marched in procession to the tomb of St. Peter.

The last of the great chivalrous orders is celebrating the 900th anniversary of its official recognition by Pope Paschal II. On Saturday, the Knights attended Mass in St. Peter's Basilica and received an audience with Pope Benedict XVI.

In exchange for multibillion-euro bailouts, Greece was required to sell state-owned assets. But the sweeping privatization process is behind schedule. In addition, European governments are nervous that Chinese, Russian and Arab companies are lining up to take advantage of the Greek fire sale.

Greeks are feeling the squeeze. The social repercussions of three years of austerity measures imposed by international lenders are hitting hard. Thousands of businesses have shut down, unemployment is nearly 27 percent and rising, and the once dependable safety net of welfare benefits is being pulled in.

With further cutbacks and tax hikes about to kick in, Greece's social fabric is being torn apart.

Nowhere are cutbacks more visible and painful than in health care.

Escalating political violence from both the left and right is raising fears of political instability in debt-burdened Greece. The conservative-led government is cracking down on leftist groups, vowing to restore law and order.

But the opposition says authorities are trying to divert people's attention from growing poverty and despair.

Take the latest explosion in Athens — a firebomb at a crowded suburban mall last month that slightly injured two security guards.

For the past two decades, in a small town in southern Italy, a pianist and music teacher has been hunting for and resurrecting the music of the dead.

Francesco Lotoro has found thousands of songs, symphonies and operas written in concentration, labor and POW camps in Germany and elsewhere before and during World War II.

By rescuing compositions written in imprisonment, Lotoro wants to fill the hole left in Europe's musical history and show how even the horrors of the Holocaust could not suppress artistic inspiration.

Another new consequence of Greece's economic crisis is that the skies of Athens and other cities are filled with smoke due to the increase in the use of wood burning stoves. The cost of heating oil has gone up 40 percent — a tax increase imposed by the troika. The Greek Environment ministry has issued a warning that the increase in pollutants in the air is posing public health risk.

With elections in Italy just weeks away, polls show leftist parties with a comfortable lead. Yet attention is focused on the battle between the former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, and the current prime minister, Mario Monti, an austere technocrat.

Monti's platform calls for continued austerity, budget cutting and labor reforms.

While Berlusconi and Monti are the two big names in next month's race, the expected winner is the leader of the leftist Democratic Party, Pier Luigi Bersani.

In an effort to safeguard some 20,000 jobs at a time of rising unemployment,
the Italian government has taken an unprecedented step. It has reversed a court order that called for the partial shutdown of Europe's biggest steel plant because it spews cancer-producing dioxins.

The ILVA steel factory in the southern port city of Taranto pits the government versus the judiciary in a battle over health issues and the need for economic revival.

The city of Rome may be the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, but as far as bright, glitzy decorations, Christmas there has always been a rather sober affair.

And yet at Christmastime, there's one area where Romans pull out all the stops — the dinner table.

Even with the economic crisis, outdoor markets, grocery shops and fishmongers are crowded with customers.

Allegations of the existence of a secret network of doctors and nuns who stole newborn babies and sold them for adoption are reviving a dark chapter in Spain's recent history.

More than 1,000 people have gone to court hoping to track down sons and daughters or brothers and sisters they were told died in childbirth.

In Madrid's Puerta del Sol square last month, Antonio Iniesta stood next to a poster with the words bebes robados (stolen babies). His demonstration is intended to publicize his search for a brother he's convinced is alive.

A year and a half ago, recession-ravaged Spanish society reacted to the economic crisis with the "Indignados," a mass protest that inspired the worldwide "Occupy" movement.

The "angry ones" are long gone from Spanish streets, but they've evolved into many grass-roots associations now filling the gaps left by the eroding welfare state, spawning a new form of anti-austerity resistance that embraces all branches of society, from those who have lost homes to foreclosures, to the entire judiciary.

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