NPR's Rome-based senior European correspondent Sylvia Poggioli fielded topics ranging from Pope Francis and the Vatican and rising xenophobia in Europe to the one thing she wished more Americans knew about Europe and her favorite TV show (The Wire!) during her Reddit "Ask Me Anything" Thursday.
On Pope Francis
He has a very reassuring tone and manner. He is surprising a lot of people by simply picking up the phone and calling people — ordinary folk who have written him as well as prominent atheists — and has started engaging a very interesting dialogue with nonbelievers.
On tension in the Vatican
In the heart of the Catholic Church, the Vatican, dissent is not often out in the open, not public. It's whispered in the marble loggias and alcoves. I think already with this papacy, many Catholics who felt they had been pushed to the margins during the previous two papacies now feel the church could again be more inclusive.
On Pope Francis and his predecessor, Pope Benedict
They couldn't be more different. Benedict was cerebral but also very gracious and he attracted big crowds in St Peter's [Square]. Pope Francis is more down to earth, speaks in very simple terms, and this has sparked great interest all over the world — not only among Catholics.
On rising racism in Europe
There is a very disturbing surge in ultraright parties in several European countries besides Greece — for example, Norway and Austria; and the political stage in Hungary is also very worrisome. In Italy, the Northern League is increasingly strident in its racist and xenophobic ranks, but it did lose some votes in the last elections.
On the one thing she wishes more Americans knew about Europe
I wish they had a better understanding of the origins of the welfare state — not a product of socialism but an idea hatched by the conservative leaders of post-war Europe as a means to end the vicious civil strife of [World War II].
On her favorite place to visit in Italy
My favorite regions are Tuscany and Sicily.
Read the entire AMA here.