Sylvia Poggioli

Three decades after the end of the Cold War, it appears the Italian capital Rome is reviving its role as "Open City" – a crossroads of international espionage and intrigue.

Italy today ordered the expulsion of two Russian embassy officials following the arrest of an Italian Navy captain on spying charges. The captain, identified by Italian media as Walter Biot, was reportedly caught Tuesday evening as he handed over allegedly top-secret documents to one of the Russian diplomats in exchange for money.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

ROME — The second Roman Catholic president in American history is a devout man who makes no secret of the importance of faith in his life. President Joe Biden is a regular churchgoer, often quotes St. Augustine and carries a rosary that belonged to his late son Beau. In one of the first images released of him in the Oval Office, a photo was visible behind his desk showing him with Pope Francis.

Italians are used to hearing the words, "Once again, the government in Rome has collapsed." Now another Italian leader is resigning — but this time, it risks plunging the country into political chaos while still in the grips of the coronavirus pandemic and deep economic turmoil.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte handed in his resignation to the president on Tuesday following weeks of political uncertainty and a split in the governing coalition over his handling of the second wave of COVID-19 and recovery funds from the European Union.

Florence is one of the main stops on any art lover's European itinerary. At the Uffizi Galleries, visitors can have their fill of works by Renaissance masters Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.

Of course, none of these artists are women.

In 2009, a new nonprofit foundation in Florence started to investigate why.

Editor's note: This story includes details some readers may find disturbing.

An unprecedented trial is underway this month at the Vatican, the result of a whistleblower going public.

A young priest is charged with sexually abusing an altar boy over a five-year period inside Vatican City walls. An older priest is charged with covering up the abuse.

It's the first criminal trial for sexual abuse to take place in the Vatican court.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Pope Francis is breaking new ground for the Roman Catholic Church. In the past week, he has voiced support for civil unions for LGBTQ people, and then on Sunday, he named the first African American cardinal. Here's NPR's Sylvia Poggioli from Rome.

Updated at 2:42 p.m. ET

Pope Francis has called for legislation to protect same-sex couples, according to comments he made in a new documentary that mark a break from Catholic doctrine.

"Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They are children of God and have a right to a family," the pope said in an interview in the documentary Francesco, which premiered Wednesday at the Rome Film Festival. "What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered."

A financial scandal swirling around the Vatican has taken a new twist with the arrest of a woman linked to a cardinal fired by Pope Francis.

Italian police arrested Cecilia Marogna in Milan late Tuesday on a warrant from the Vatican City State. A Vatican official told Reuters that Holy See magistrates suspect her of embezzlement and misappropriation of funds, in complicity with others.

Pope Francis has presented his blueprint for a post-COVID-19 world, covering a vast number of issues from fraternity and income inequality to immigration and social injustice.

The document, released Sunday, is his third encyclical — the most authoritative form of papal teaching.

Over the centuries, Europe has suffered through plagues, pestilence and the Black Death.

When Italy became the first Western country to be hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the city of Florence discovered that one of its unique architectural quirks was perfect for coronavirus-era social distancing.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Vatican officials have always insisted Pope Pius XII did everything possible to save Jewish lives during World War II. But many scholars accuse him of complicit silence while some 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare many of the problems of societies around the world. In Italy, the first Western country hit by COVID-19, it revealed how much the country relies on its migrant work force. Many undocumented migrants work on farms, as field hands and harvesting crops — jobs that Italians don't want. With the pandemic, they were suddenly recognized as essential.

One African-Italian became the spokesman for hundreds of thousands of migrants — those who couldn't stay home, who were risking their health to go out to work.

Italy's prime minister, health and interior ministers faced hours of questioning in Rome Friday as prosecutors opened an investigation into possible government mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis.

Investigators want to know why the towns of Alzano Lombardo and Nembro in the northern industrial region of Lombardy were not isolated and declared "red zones" as soon as the first cases were identified. As of now, no one has been charged.

Pages