Journalist John Thavis is known in the trade as a “Vaticanista,” having covered three popes and the highest reaches of the Catholic hierarchy for more than 30 pivotal and tumultuous years as a correspondent and bureau chief in Rome.
Author of the New York Times best seller, The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church (2013), Thavis presented Inside the Vatican on October 29 before a capacity crowd at Elmhurst College. Earlier that day, he gave an interview on WBEZ’s Worldview.
During his lecture he said he wrote the book so that he could finally describe some of the “surprising” things he had witnessed at the Vatican, including things that couldn’t be included in his news stories.
“I always found it interesting there,” he said, “and I wanted to convey the atmosphere, the flavor, the humanness of the Vatican.”
Thavis first worked in Italy in 1978 as a headline writer, then news editor, for the Rome Daily American. Four years later, Thavis persuaded his wife to relocate from Minnesota to Rome, where Thavis penned a guidebook to Rome and worked part time with the Associated Press, ABC News and Wine Spectator magazine.
But it was his work as a reporter for the Catholic News Service that allowed Thavis to dive into Vatican affairs. He not only covered the Vatican on a daily basis, but also traveled to more than 60 countries with Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, and reported on other religious stories from Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In 1996 he became the Catholic News Service’s Rome bureau chief.