Five Reasons to Visit Catania

Time has just published a quick travel piece on the glories of Catania in Sicily.

From beaches to renaissance art, sometimes it seems as if there’s nothing the Italian island of Sicily doesn’t have to offer. And if there’s one city that captures it all, it’s Catania — a great place to take in the mountains, the Mediterranean, folk traditions and fantastic food, all in the course of a day. Here are five Catania essentials.

Read it here.

Vatican Gets Tough on Child Abuse, but Not Tough Enough

My story on the Vatican’s latest efforts to fight child abuse is up at Time.

When the Vatican issued a letter on Monday ordering bishops across the world to draw up tough guidelines for dealing with priests who rape or molest children, it addressed only half the scandal that has been rocking the Catholic Church.

To be sure, when it comes to the abusive clerics, the Vatican’s new edict takes a firm stand, obliging local bishops to cooperate with local law enforcement in reporting sex crimes and recommending that policies be put in place to exclude accused priests from public ministry if they pose a continued danger to minors or could be a “cause of scandal for the community.”

But what Monday’s letter fails to do is put in place any sanctions on the bishops who oversee those clerics, should they fail to follow through with the recommendations. Child abuse is by no means unique to the Catholic Church. What sets the scandal apart is the sustained and widespread effort by church authorities to cover up for and protect the accused. And, in this regard, the new guidelines change little. “No threat of penalty will deter a child molester from committing a child sex crime,” says David Clohessy, national director of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), which criticized the proposal as too lax. “But penalties can deter bishops from ignoring or concealing those crimes.”

Read the rest.

Next Time You’re in Rome

Check out my short piece on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Colosseum.

Want a backstage pass to the gladiator games? Then join a behind-the-scenes tour of Rome’s Colosseum, taking in the underground chambers where the ancient city’s famous warriors prepared themselves for battle.

The subterranean section is one of the best-preserved parts of the famous 1,931-year-old arena. Unlike other sections of the Colosseum, which have been lived in, mined for stone, used as fortifications and even planted with gardens, the now cleared rooms and passages beneath the amphitheater have remained untouched since the 5th century, when they were filled with earth shortly after the Colosseum fell out of use. “They’ve been conserved, exactly the way they were,” says the Colosseum’s director, Rossella Rea.

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Blessed, John Paul II Moves Closer to Sainthood

I was up early enough Sunday morning to meet the Saturday night crowds going home on my way to cover the beatification of John Paul II for Time.

Even before the sun had risen, the crowd attending the beatification of Pope John Paul II had overfilled the square around the St. Peter’s basilica. By the time dawn broke, the faithful had spilled down the road towards the Tiber and into the side streets around the Vatican, where the ceremony — the first major milestone towards sainthood — was set to take place.

Many had spent the night, in tents or on blankets spread over the cobblestones. More than a million had risen early Sunday morning in order to join in the veneration of a larger-than-life Polish pope, who many felt had personally touched their lives. “I felt, when he was alive, that if I met him on the street, he would know my name,” said Danuta Kowalik, 36, a teacher who had driven from Poland for the occasion.

Read the rest.