Sylvia Poggioli

After decades of pressure from historians and Jewish groups, the Vatican on Monday began allowing scholars access to the archives of Pope Pius XII, the controversial World War II-era pontiff.

Roman Catholic Church officials have always insisted that Pius did everything possible to save Jewish lives. But he remained publicly silent while some 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

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Starting today, the Vatican is allowing scholars to access the archives of Pope Pius XII. His papacy began as Europe was on the brink of World War II, and critics have long accused him of remaining silent during the Holocaust. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli has more.

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As the bells of St. Peter's Basilica ring out from the Vatican on a chilly January evening, a few people huddled in shabby clothes stand a few yards from the colonnade encircling St. Peter's Square.

They are waiting to enter the Palazzo Migliori, a 19th century palace just behind the square.

One of them is Livia, an Italian woman in her 60s. After having slept on Rome's streets for months, she has been spending nights since early December in what has become known as the "Palace of the Poor."

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In Rome, just behind St. Peter's Square, there's a palace that the Vatican owns. Some church officials wanted to turn it into a money-making enterprise. But as NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports, Pope Francis had other ideas.

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European Union officials will be closely monitoring results of local elections in Italy Sunday that are seen as a bellwether for the fate of the national government.

Polls suggest that the far-right populist League Party could win control of a region that has been a leftist bastion for 75 years.

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They call themselves the "Sardines" — because they want to quietly pack Italy's main public squares like fish in a can. Organizers say their goal is to stop a far-right, anti-immigrant wave rising in Italian society and politics.

On Saturday, tens of thousands turned out in Rome's St. John Lateran Square for their largest rally yet. Retirees mingled with teenagers and families with kids, many holding fish-shaped signs. They sang Bella Ciao, a World War II-era anthem of the anti-fascist resistance.

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The lagoon city of Venice — a unique experiment nurtured by man and nature — suffered heavy damage in November as floodwaters reached their highest peaks in more than 50 years.

But rising sea levels are not the only threat. As Venetians continue to leave their city, Venice risks becoming an empty shell sinking under mass tourism.

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The Italian city of Venice is still reeling from a week of three exceptional tides whose floodwaters have caused massive damage to the city's cultural legacy and to residences and businesses.

The disaster has gripped Italy and inspired a wave of volunteers to salvage what they can.

There is a bookshop in Campiello del Tintor square named Libreria Acqua Alta, which means High Water Bookstore. Following Sunday's exceptional high tide, the square as well as the store's pavement were under several inches of water.

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The worst flood in more than 50 years has submerged Venice, the historic Italian city built on a lagoon. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports the city's mayor says Venice is on its knees.

More than seven decades after the fall of fascism in its country of birth, Italy is in the grip of an intense debate about anti-Semitism, racism and hate speech.

The national psychodrama was unwittingly triggered by an 89-year-old Jewish grandmother and Holocaust survivor who has been put under police escort following threats from members of Italy's ultra-right.

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Some of the most recent U.S. tariffs imposed by the Trump administration have infuriated Italians, people who support the sale of formaggio, which is Italian for cheese. If you think that does not sound like such a big deal, listen to NPR's Sylvia Poggioli.

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On Sunday, Pope Francis opened a three-week bishops' assembly known as a synod, denouncing contemporary forms of colonialism and urging conservatives to be open to change.

The Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region, held at the Vatican, is focusing on the environment and indigenous peoples' rights to their land and traditions. In addition to 185 bishops, mostly from the Amazon region, participants include scientists and environmentalists.

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Pope Francis is heading, this week, to three southeastern African nations - Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius. Why there? NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports.

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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.

The Italian region of Tuscany is not known just for its fine wines, extra-virgin olive oil and Renaissance masterpieces. It's also the birthplace of the Italian Communist Party, which was founded in 1921 and has been a bastion of left-wing governance for decades.

But in the past three years, Tuscany has experienced political upheaval as the hard-right, anti-immigrant League party has won elections in many towns, marking the first losses for the left in Tuscany in more than seven decades.

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.

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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.

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