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.

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Parallels
4:23 pm
Thu November 27, 2014

In A Land Of Few Christians, Pope Will Reach Out To Muslims In Turkey

Pope Francis waves in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican. The pope heads to Turkey on Friday, a country with few Catholics, but he plans to reach out to Muslims and to the Orthodox Church.
Tony Gentile Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu November 27, 2014 7:12 pm

Pope Francis is heading to Turkey for what could be one of the most challenging trips of his young papacy.

The three-day visit, which begins Friday, will be a mix of the religious and political, with the pope addressing topics ranging from Christian unity to the worsening plight of Christians in the Muslim-dominated Middle East.

While the Catholic and Orthodox churches have been divided since the "Great Schism" nearly a millennium ago, Francis will attend Sunday's celebration of St. Andrew, patron saint of the Greek Orthodox Church.

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Religion
4:23 am
Mon October 20, 2014

Catholic Synod Highlights Divisions, Sets Stage For Future Battles

Pope Francis attends a session of the two-week synod at the Vatican that wrapped up over the weekend. The usually predictable event produced a robust debate among the bishops on how the Catholic Church should deal with gays as well as Catholics who are divorced or remarried.
Gregorio Borgia AP

Originally published on Tue October 21, 2014 2:29 pm

Over the past few decades, assemblies of Roman Catholic bishops meeting in Rome, known as synods, have been predictable events that have always upheld the viewpoints of the reigning pope.

But with the widely popular Pope Francis, nothing is predictable.

A two-week-long synod on family issues that wound up this weekend was tumultuous, and the results showed a church deeply divided over how to deal with gays and with divorced and remarried Catholics.

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Parallels
4:39 pm
Mon October 13, 2014

For Italy's Gay Rights Advocates, It's 1 Step Forward, 2 Steps Back

Counterdemonstrators in favor of LGBT rights wear pink triangles, reminiscent of those homosexuals were forced to wear in Nazi concentration camps.
Sylvia Poggioli NPR

Originally published on Mon October 13, 2014 8:19 pm

Ancient Rome may have been open to all sorts of sexual mores, but modern Italy is less so. The country lags far behind its European Union partners in guaranteeing equal rights for homosexuals.

Gay couples have no legal recognition or adoption rights in Italy, and a bill presented last year outlawing discrimination on the grounds of homophobia has been bogged down in parliament by right-wing opposition.

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Parallels
6:13 pm
Wed October 8, 2014

In 'Season Of Mercy,' Will Vatican Rethink Communion For Divorcees?

Faithful hold candles during a vigil prayer in preparation for the synod on the family on Oct. 4, at St. Peter's Square at the Vatican.
Gabriel Bouys AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 9, 2014 9:58 am

Some 200 bishops from around the world are gathered at the Vatican for a two-week assembly to discuss issues related to the family, including artificial contraception, premarital sex and ministering gay unions.

But one of the most controversial is a proposal to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion — taboo in church doctrine for 2,000 years.

In February, Pope Francis tapped one of his favorite theologians, German Cardinal Walter Kasper, to address a meeting of all the cardinals.

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Religion
10:36 am
Sun October 5, 2014

Vatican Synod Tests The Pope's Vision Of A More Merciful Church

Archbisop of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan (left) attends the Opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Basilica on Sunday in Vatican City. The two-week conference will discuss family issues, including controversial topics like divorce and contraception.
Franco Origlia Getty Images

Originally published on Sun October 5, 2014 1:51 pm

Pope Francis has summoned bishops from all over the world to Rome to discuss issues concerning families – including hot-button issues like artificial contraception and gay civil unions.

The meeting, called a synod, opened on Sunday and is seen as a test of Francis' vision of a more merciful Church.

Not since the landmark Second Vatican Council half a century ago has a church meeting raised so much hope among progressive Catholics — and so much apprehension among conservatives.

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Parallels
4:56 am
Sun August 24, 2014

Italy Undertakes Lonely, Expensive Mission To Aid Migrants At Sea

A slide of migratory flows in the Mediterranean Sea from the Mare Nostrum operation is displayed in the control room of the Italian operation, which tracks and intercepts migrant ships en route to Europe.
Sylvia Poggioli NPR

Originally published on Sun August 24, 2014 12:13 pm

On the outskirts of Rome, far from the coast, there's a top-security compound where Italy is trying to tackle one of Europe's major crises: the rising flows of unauthorized migrants making perilous journeys from North Africa across the Mediterranean.

In all of 2011, the year of the Arab uprisings, slightly more than 60,000 migrants arrived by sea in Italy.

By mid-August this year, the number surpassed 100,000.

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Business
5:25 am
Thu August 7, 2014

Italy Unexpectedly Slips Into Recession

Originally published on Thu August 7, 2014 8:09 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Europe
4:15 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Over 2 Years Since Its Wreck, The Costa Concordia Floats Again

Originally published on Mon July 14, 2014 6:24 pm

The Costa Concordia cruise crashed into a reef and capsized in waters off the island of Giglio in Italy over two years ago. On Monday, the most complicated part of the operation to refloat the ship was completed successfully.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The Salt
6:28 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

This Fine Wine Made At An Italian Penal Colony Is No 2-Buck Chuck

Marquise Lamberto Frescobaldi (right), of the winemaking dynasty, talks with prisoners Brian Baldissin (left) and Francesco Papa at his vineyard on Gorgona island in June 2013.
Alessandro Bianchi Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu July 10, 2014 7:58 pm

Eighteen miles off Tuscany's coast, Gorgona is Italy's last island prison. Its steep cliffs rise up from azure Mediterranean waters. Here, a select group of convicts serves the end of long sentences by farming. And now, a legendary winemaker is training them to make high-end wine.

Mentioned by Dante in The Divine Comedy, Gorgona was for thousands of years a refuge for hermits and monks. Since 1869, it's been a penal colony.

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Religion
4:19 pm
Mon July 7, 2014

Pope Meets Sex Abuse Victims, Bearing A Plea For Forgiveness

Originally published on Mon July 7, 2014 7:56 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

At the Vatican today Pope Francis had his first meeting with victims of clergy. He vowed to hold bishops accountable for the protection of children. The meeting came nearly 16 months after Francis was elected. Victim support groups said it was long overdue. For more on this NPR's Sylvia Poggioli joins us from Rome. Hello Sylvia.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: Hello, Robert.

SIEGEL: And I understand the Pope held a Mass with these victims, including a dramatic homily. What did he say?

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Parallels
11:52 am
Wed May 21, 2014

The 1,000-Year-Old Schism That Pope Francis Seeks To Heal

Tourists walk past a poster of Pope Francis hanging on the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Monday. Pope Francis' trip to the Mideast later this week will commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic rapprochement between Catholics and Orthodox, who split nearly 1,000 years ago.
Mussa Qawasma Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu May 22, 2014 1:30 pm

Pope Francis travels this weekend to the Middle East, the cradle of the three monotheistic religions, and will meet with Catholic, Jewish and Muslim leaders.

But the official purpose of the visit is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic rapprochement between Catholics and Orthodox and to try to restore Christian unity after nearly 1,000 years of estrangement.

Meeting in Jerusalem in 1964, Pope Paul VI and Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras set a milestone: They started the process of healing the schism between Eastern and Western Christianity of the year 1054.

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Middle East
3:33 am
Tue May 20, 2014

Pope To Travel To Holy Land With Rabbi And Muslim Leader

A Palestinian man works on a banner bearing a portrait of Pope Francis at a printing house in the West Bank city of Ramallah in anticipation of this week's papal visit.
Abbas Momani AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 4:24 pm

The first non-European pope in modern history will makes a pilgrimage to the Holy Land this week, a region with centuries of religious strife.

Francis — the first pope to take the name of the saint of peace — will carry far less historical baggage than any of his predecessors.

When John Paul II visited Israel in 2000, he prayed at the Western Wall and apologized for the church's sins against Jews. Nine years later, at Yad Vashem, the memorial to the Holocaust, Benedict XVI urged that the names of the victims never perish, be denied or forgotten.

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Religion
7:36 am
Sun May 11, 2014

U.N. Panel Could Find Vatican Guilty Of Torture

Originally published on Sun May 11, 2014 11:47 am

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. The Vatican got a grilling this past week for its handling of the clerical sex abuse scandal. The setting - a United Nations hearing in Geneva. Meanwhile in Rome, a new advisory board to Pope Francis held its first meeting on the sex abuse crisis.

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World
5:34 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

UN Committee Grills Vatican Officials On Sex Abuse

Originally published on Wed May 7, 2014 11:05 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

For the second time this year, Vatican officials were subjected to scathing questions by a U.N. panel. The questions focus on the church's handling of cases of sexual abuse by priests. The grilling came in two days of hearings in Geneva by the U.N. Committee on Torture. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli is following this and joins me now. And, Sylvia, earlier this year, it was a U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child that issued a very harsh report about clerical sex abuse. What is the Committee on Torture saying now, and is it different?

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Parallels
3:04 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

2,000 Buses Of Visitors: Rome Braces For Canonization Crowds

Tourists walk past a poster of Pope John Paul II on April 13 in Rome.
Gregorio Brogia AP

Originally published on Wed April 23, 2014 11:06 pm

The day after Easter, St. Peter's Square was packed.

Caramba Camarra, a Gambian volunteer with Opera Romana Pelligrinaggi, the Vatican-run pilgrimage agency, said he had never seen so many people lined up to visit the basilica.

"It's amazing! The line curves like a serpent, filling the whole square," he said. "It looks like the crowds at Mecca."

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News
4:36 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

In First Visit To The Vatican, Obama Finds Himself Moved

Originally published on Thu March 27, 2014 7:03 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

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Europe
5:05 am
Thu March 27, 2014

Obama And Pope Meet For First Time At The Vatican

Originally published on Mon March 31, 2014 12:18 pm

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Good morning. President Obama has wrapped up a meeting in Vatican City with Pope Francis, the man who in just one year has become the world's spiritual superstar. Now, the elections of both men made history, Barack Obama as the first African-American president, and the Argentine-born Jorge Bergoglio became the first non-European pope in centuries.

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Parallels
2:35 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

The Sometimes Tricky Relations Between Popes And Presidents

President Obama and Michelle Obama meet Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican in 2009. The president will meet Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thursday.
Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 8:24 pm

President Obama meets Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thursday, the 30th anniversary of formal relations between Washington and the Holy See, and against a backdrop of a sometimes turbulent history in U.S.-Vatican ties.

The first high-level bilateral contact was in 1788, as the Vatican foreign minister recalled recently. Speaking in a large renaissance hall, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti said President George Washington, through his envoy Benjamin Franklin, informed the Vatican that it did not need to seek authorization from the U.S. for the appointment of bishops.

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Parallels
3:38 am
Thu March 13, 2014

One Year Later, 'A Pope For All' Keeps Catholics Guessing

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives for his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican last month.
Vincenzo Pinto AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu March 13, 2014 11:21 am

A year ago today, the world's 1.2 billion Catholics got their first Jesuit pope and the first from the global south. Taking the name Francis, he soon became one of the world's most popular newsmakers.

Following two doctrinally conservative leaders, the Argentine-born pope's pastoral approach has given the Catholic Church a new glow — less judgmental, more merciful.

Like many others in the big Sunday crowd in St. Peter's square, Sally Wilson is not Catholic, but she came all the way from Beaumont, Texas, to see the pope.

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Parallels
3:43 am
Wed March 12, 2014

A Magnet For African Migrants, Italy Seeks A New Approach

Migrants sit in a boat during a rescue operation by the Italian navy off the coast of Sicily on Nov. 28. Italy is looking to revamp the way it handles the hundreds of thousands of migrants who arrive annually.
Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Wed March 12, 2014 11:37 am

With mild weather ahead, southern Europe is once again bracing for new boatloads of would-be migrants and asylum seekers from North Africa.

Italy has borne the brunt of this migrant flow for two decades, and it has responded with one of Europe's most repressive laws on illegal immigration.

But now the Italian parliament is trying to scrap a law that has made migrants vulnerable to exploitation and human rights abuses. The existing law has also produced detention camps where undocumented migrants are held in harsh conditions.

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The Salt
2:36 pm
Sun March 9, 2014

A Theme Park For Foodies? Italians Say Bologna

Customers dine at the original Eataly in Turin, Italy, which opened in 2007.
demoshelsinki/Flickr

Originally published on Tue March 11, 2014 1:53 pm

Italy has more UNESCO world heritage sites than any other country in the world, and its art and cultural riches have drawn visitors for centuries.

It also prides itself on being a culinary mecca, where preparing, cooking and serving meals is a fine, even sacred, art. And now that the country is in the deepest and most protracted recession since World War II, why not cash in on its reputation as a paradise for visiting gourmets and gourmands?

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Religion
4:42 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

UN Report Raises Scathing Criticisms Of Vatican

Originally published on Wed February 5, 2014 10:23 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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Parallels
3:20 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

On A Roman Street, Graffiti Celebrates 'SuperPope'

Graffiti artist Mauro Palotta says Pope Francis is the only world leader who stands on the side of the people.
Sylvia Poggoli NPR

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 11:00 am

First, he's Time magazine's "Person of the Year." Then, he's Rolling Stone's cover story: "The Times They Are A-Changin'" in the Roman Catholic Church.

Now, he's "SuperPope," the latest incarnation of Pope Francis, who has rapidly become one of the most popular leaders on the planet.

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Europe
2:57 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Archaeologists Unearth What May Be Oldest Roman Temple

Excavation at the Sant'Omobono site in central Rome has provided evidence of early Romans' efforts to transform the landscape of their city.
Sylvia Poggioli NPR

Originally published on Wed January 29, 2014 12:49 pm

Archaeologists excavating a site in central Rome say they've uncovered what may be oldest known temple from Roman antiquity.

Along the way, they've also discovered how much the early Romans intervened to shape their urban environment.

And the dig has been particularly challenging because the temple lies below the water table.

At the foot Capitoline Hill in the center of Rome, stands the Medieval Sant'Omobono church.

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Parallels
1:37 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

The Vatican Reaches Out, A Cricket Match At A Time

A player from the Vatican's new cricket team of priests and seminarians returns a ball during a training session at the Mater Ecclesiae Catholic college in Rome last month. The Vatican officially declared its intention to defeat the Church of England — not in a theological re-match nearly 500 years after they split, but on the cricket pitch.
Alessandro Bianchi Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Wed November 6, 2013 6:21 pm

Some 500 years after England's King Henry VIII broke with the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican is vowing to defeat the Church of England — not in the pews, but on the cricket pitch.

The Vatican has launched its own cricket club — a move aimed at forging ties with teams of other faiths.

Rome's Capannelle Cricket Club is hosting training matches that will lead to the creation of the Vatican team, the St. Peter's Cricket Club.

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Parallels
4:42 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

In A Church Built On Tradition, The Pope Likes Spontaneity

A young man gives a Catholic skullcap to Pope Francis as he greets the crowd before his general audience at St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Oct. 16.
Alberto Pizzoli AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri November 1, 2013 8:36 pm

In the seven months since he was elected, Pope Francis has shaken up the Catholic world and beyond with off-the-cuff homilies, phone calls to ordinary folk and unscripted interviews. His Twitter followers now exceed 10 million. Described by the Vatican as "conversational," the new papal style is drawing praise from large numbers of Catholics and nonbelievers alike.

But it's also making some conservative Catholics deeply uncomfortable.

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NPR Story
4:44 pm
Mon September 16, 2013

Costa Concordia Clear Of Pollution And Delicate Reefs

Originally published on Mon September 16, 2013 5:55 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's being called the largest marine salvage operation ever. Off the coast of west Italy, engineers are attempting to rotate the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise liner to an upright position. The massive ship is now clear of the reef that had penetrated the hull. And apparently, no pollutants are spilling from the ship.

NPR's Sylvia Poggioli joins us now from the island of Giglio. And, Sylvia, describe where you are now and whether there's been any visible progress toward riding the ship.

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Europe
4:59 pm
Fri September 13, 2013

Off The Tuscan Coast, Raising The Ill-Fated Costa Concordia

An aerial view taken on Aug. 23 shows the Costa Concordia as it lies on its side next to Giglio Island. The wrecked cruise ship will be rolled off the seabed and onto underwater platforms.
Alessandro Bianchi Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Fri September 13, 2013 8:29 pm

Weather permitting, one of the largest maritime salvage operations ever attempted will get underway Monday in the waters off of an Italian island.

Twenty months ago, in January 2012, the Costa Concordia luxury liner smashed into a jagged reef, killing 32 people. Since then, the vessel has being lying on its side — an unsightly wreck visible for miles around.

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The Salt
3:00 am
Tue August 27, 2013

Tortellini, The Dumpling Inspired By Venus' Navel

Even in Sandro Botticelli's painting The Birth of Venus, the goddess's belly resembles a plump, firm tortellino.
Wikimedia.org

Originally published on Sat August 31, 2013 4:38 pm

Tortellini — small circles of rolled dough folded around a filling — are one of the most renowned members of the Italian pasta family. In the land of their birth, the region near the Italian city of Bologna, they're strictly served as broth-like dumplings.

Possibly no foodstuff in Italian cuisine is surrounded by so much history and lore.

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Europe
3:02 am
Mon August 19, 2013

Ai Weiwei Exhibit Shines Light On Time As Political Prisoner

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's six iron boxes are part the 55th edition of the Venice Biennale of Arts in Venice, northern Italy. The work on display is called S.A.C.R.E.D. The four initials standing for supper, accuser, cleansing, ritual, entropy and doubt, and referring to Ai Weiwei time 81 days in detention in 2011.
Domenico Stinellis AP

Originally published on Mon August 19, 2013 6:52 am

Chinese dissident artist and architect Ai Weiwei is an outspoken critic of China's record on human rights. This year, Beijing prevented him from traveling to Venice for the first exhibition of a deeply autobiographical work. His most recent installation is an excruciatingly detailed depiction of the period he was held in solitary detention.

In a quiet corner close to a canal, Sant'Antonin is a typical 17th century Venetian church. But inside, the contrast between the paintings of old masters and the contemporary exhibit is stark.

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