Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change and environmental protection. Released at the Vatican in June 2015. Photo by Justin Catanoso
In early May, Jon Sawyer, founder and executive director of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, asked me to take on a special assignment. He believed it was tailor-made for me. The topic: Pope Francis’ upcoming already-controversial encyclical, or Catholic, teaching document on climate change and environment protection. The premise: how is the document being received in Latin American, the popular pope’s home region. I was honored to accept the assignment.
After being able to cover the Vatican press conference on June 18 while in Rome with my Wake Forest travel writing students, I traveled to Peru twice during the summer — a total of three weeks — to report the story. I was joined by incredible professionals such as guide and consultant Enrique Ortiz, fixer Aldo Villanueava, photographer Jason Houston, and for two weeks, my daughter Emilia Catanoso, who was my first photographer.
The glorious ceiling inside St. Ignatius of Loyola in Rome
In this travel story, published here, I wrote about three of my favorite domes in Rome. There are hundreds of them, of course, and favorites can shift from day to day. But these? They are always near the top, and always worth visiting again and again.
Excerpt: “Rome is a city of domes. There are scores of them topping churches and cathedrals, baths and basilicas. They are visually arresting from street level. But with three domes in particular, a special experience awaits you if you get closer, if you look closely, or if you’re there at the right time.”
While having lunch last spring with good friend David Ford of WFDD, I told him about the time my wife and I — during our honeymoon in 1984 — witnessed the charismatic aura of Pope John PaulII while visiting the Vatican. Ford liked the story so much that we headed straight back to the studio to record it, unscripted. It aired right around the time of the former pope’s canonization. You can hear the recording here.
On the occasion of Pope Francis canonizing two of his beloved predecessors in April 2014, Zach Everson at AOL Travel asked if I would write about story about the spectacle of canonization in Rome from the perspective of someone who had a good reason in 2005 to attend one. I was glad to do it. The story is here.
Excerpt: “On that memorable day, my family and I –- more than 60 of us from America, each of us bursting with pride –- crowded into St. Peter’s Square for what was Benedict’s first canonization ceremony. Rome goes crazy for these events. Stores and restaurants, not to mention buses and cars, are festooned with posters of the saints-to-be. Everywhere we looked in the vicinity of the Vatican, we saw our family name and cousin’s gentle smile. We felt like special guests at a giddy global block party.”