March 05, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Science-based reality check on pope’s planned Iraq trip

teamed up to provide a science-based reality check to the pope’s planned trip to Iraq. Their story raised questions about how the Vatican can justify going through with the trip during a global pandemic. Chief Vatican correspondent Winfield had been preparing a preview on the Iraq trip and Christian-Muslim relations, but while interviewing experts she realized that the virus issues would dominate that story. Instead, she and Baghdad colleague Kullab hustled to put together a weekend piece focused exclusively on the virus, adding a valuable story to AP’s planned trip line-up.Beyond the obvious risks involved in any mass religious gathering, the story also raised the more problematic optics of having a vaccinated papal delegation descend on a country where the virus is surging, the vaccine campaign hasn’t even begun and where an already fragile health care system has been weakened by war and economic crises. The story was well timed, given the day it moved the pope’s own ambassador to Iraq tested positive. https://bit.ly/2O0EcHD

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Dec. 11, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP wins first Rome interview after acquittal of Cardinal Pell

landed the first interview with Cardinal George Pell after his return to the Vatican following acquittal in Australia on sex abuse charges. Winfield worked for months to win the access, triangulating with Pell’s publisher, his secretary and the former Australian ambassador to the Holy See to give AP the edge.Pell’s comments to AP about a swirling Vatican corruption investigation made headlines, since he had tried to root out financial corruption when he was Vatican treasurer but was forced to abandon the efforts when he had to return to Australia to face trial.https://bit.ly/37KclRQhttps://bit.ly/3m3gzJx

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Nov. 20, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP team unmatched in coverage of Vatican’s McCarrick report

teamed up for the long-awaited release of the Vatican’s 449-page report on defrocked former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. The report places most of the blame on a dead saint: Pope John Paul II, who in 2000 appointed McCarrick archbishop of Washington, D.C., despite having commissioned an inquiry that confirmed he slept with seminarians.The AP coverage drew on subject expertise, deep sourcing and multinational teamwork to produce a week of insightful stories and analysis. The all-formats package not only stayed ahead of the competition but also managed to break news even when documents were universally released to other outlets.Rumors of the report’s imminent release had circulated for two years, but Winfield, the dean of Vatican reporters and one of the preeminent authorities on the papacy, confirmed it last week. She and the religion team created a coverage plan that brought together AP staff in New York, New Jersey, Argentina, Warsaw and Virginia. The result was a series of stories, videos and photos that provided some of the most comprehensive, nuanced and explanatory coverage of how McCarrick not only survived, but thrived within a hierarchy that seemingly looked the other way as a predator ran amok in church ranks.https://bit.ly/2UE5oLYhttps://bit.ly/3lLUpffhttps://bit.ly/3kSr6GYhttps://bit.ly/35IPSVmhttps://bit.ly/32YPD6Nhttps://bit.ly/330ff3d

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Oct. 30, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP traces source of Pope’s comment on same-sex civil unions

teamed up to trace the elusive origin of Pope Francis’ bombshell comment on same-sex civil unions in a three-day run of stories that broke news.After Winfield reported that Pope Francis had endorsed civil unions in a new documentary, she discovered that the origin of the quote in the film was not clear. When Winfield asked the director whether he had understood at the time that the civil union comment was news, his longwinded and indirect answer was the first hint that something was off – triggering a 36-hour reporting effort.Thomas, who was covering the premiere of “Francesco” in Rome, got a top papal communications aide on camera insisting that the quote didn’t come from an interview for the film, but a 2019 interview Francis granted Mexican broadcaster Televisa. After three days of contradictory claims, the reporters nailed down that the comments were made during a May 2019 Televisa interview that was never broadcast in its entirety. Verza pressed and elicited a sourced confirmation that the Vatican had cut the quote out of the raw interview footage it provided to Televisa.AP’s story with the information from Mexico moved three hours before major newspapers reported the story. The Vatican, meanwhile, has refused all comment.https://bit.ly/3kBGZlyhttps://bit.ly/31R6VCq

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March 20, 2020

Best of the Week

Italy teams lead the way on coronavirus coverage despite major obstacles

As sweeping restrictions and lockdown measures rolled out across the world in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, AP’s team of staff and freelancers in Italy set an example for how to produce compelling and competitive journalism in all formats despite major challenges affecting them both professionally and personally, including the very real risk of being placed in self-quarantine for covering stories in risk zones.

Three weeks into the Italian outbreak, AP produced some of the strongest coverage yet including multiple exclusives and beats across formats. That work included: How the northern town of Codogno greatly reduced the spread of the virus, a first-person account of the lockdown’s impact on families, overwhelmed doctors drawing parallels to war-time triage, rioting at Italian prisons, residents showing solidarity from their balconies, and more.

AP’s coverage throughout the crisis in Italy has consistently won heavy play online and in print.

For resourceful, dedicated and inspired journalism under unusually demanding circumstances, the Rome and Milan bureaus receive AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Feb. 28, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Vatican envoy knew of offer to bribe abuse victim

for teaming up in a new investigation into the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order, revealing that the pope’s own envoy knew about a sex abuse settlement offer that is the subject of an obstruction of justice and extortion trial in Italy. AP scored the first-ever interview with the victim’s mother and obtained her wiretapped conversation with the Vatican cardinal running the Legion who was utterly unfazed that the order wanted to pay her son to lie to prosecutors and deny he had been abused.https://bit.ly/2TftYlihttps://bit.ly/2VpMJVI

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Jan. 31, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP exposes Vatican’s failure in Mexico abuse case

for a cross-format, trans-Atlantic exposé of a 30-year cover-up of a horrific case of clergy sexual abuse in Mexico. The pair revealed how the Vatican’s reform of the Legion of Christ had failed, as the papal envoy who ran the Legion starting in 2010 refused to punish or even investigate the abusing priest or the superiors who covered up his crimes, many of whom are still in power and ministry today. https://bit.ly/38NCjmdhttps://bit.ly/2UiftPZ

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Dec. 27, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

As abuse reports surge, secretive Vatican office opens doors to AP

for securing the first TV and photo access to the secretive Vatican tribunal that processes clergy sexual abuse cases. The result was an exclusive on-camera interview with the head of the tribunal’s discipline section, an unprecedented tour of the room where appeals are heard and a look at the trolleys of files documenting all the world’s known Catholic sex abuse cases. The office says it has seen a record 1,000 reports of clergy abuse this year. https://bit.ly/2ETTPsghttps://bit.ly/2rqSyFR

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Dec. 13, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP story on children of priests leads brothers to find each other

for reuniting two half-brothers and documenting their meeting with riveting coverage in all formats. After AP reported that the Vatican was investigating a Kenyan man’s claim that his father was an Italian missionary priest, another man came forward to say he was the son of the same priest. AP sponsored genetic testing that confirmed their suspicions.https://bit.ly/2PExu70https://bit.ly/2YIwVNz

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Aug. 16, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

In his own words: Ex-cardinal’s letters to his alleged abuse victims

for obtaining exclusive correspondence from disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick to three seminarians he is accused of sexually molesting or abusing. Winfield was tipped off to the story by seeing the correspondence to one seminarian in AP’s project files for The Reckoning investigation. That led to examples of McCarrick’s correspondence with two more men. Appearing innocuous and warm, McCarrick’s letters and postcards to the young men are a window into the way a predator grooms his prey, according to abuse prevention experts consulted by the AP. https://bit.ly/2Mjlk45

June 14, 2019

Best of the Week

AP investigation: Top US cardinal accused of mishandling abuse allegations against deputy

Vatican correspondent Nicole Winfield’s five-month investigation revealed the stunning allegations: A high-ranking Catholic priest had a sexual relationship with a Houston woman for more than a year, counseled her husband on their marital problems, pressed for hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from the couple and continued to hear her confession.

But the cardinal overseeing the church’s handling of sexual abuse allegations in the United States approved the priest’s transfer to a church two hours away.

The fallout from Winfield’s revelations was swift: The priest was suspended and church officials reopened their inquiry into the handling of parishioner Laura Pontikes’ accusations.

To tell the sensitive story, Winfield – and a team that included Raleigh-based national writer/video journalist Allen Breed, New York global enterprise photographer Wong Maye-E and Houston correspondent Nomaan Merchant – meticulously planned coverage in each format, including on-camera interviews with Pontikes and her husband, and photos and video of the cardinal and the accused priest.

For an investigation that cast doubt on a top church official’s handling of a case involving startling allegations of abuse, Winfield, Breed, Wong and Merchant wins AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Jan. 11, 2019

Best of the Week

AP investigation exposes sex abuse suffered at hands of priests by India’s nuns

New Delhi-based investigative reporter Tim Sullivan spent months looking into whispers that Indian nuns had endured sexual pressure by Catholic priests. What he found, after months of reporting into the closed-off world of Catholic convents, was a pattern of abuse that went back decades, ranging from drunken priests barging into nuns’ rooms to outright rape. He also found a culture of silence that had long kept these attacks hidden. Slowly, though, Sullivan found sisters willing to open up about their attacks, and others who could give perspective on why they’d been kept secret for so long. Finally, he and New Delhi photographer Manish Swarup traveled to southern India’s Catholic heartland to meet with nuns who had become pariahs in their community for defending a sister who accused a bishop of rape.

Sullivan’s powerful narrative attracted widespread attention. Accompanied by Swarup’s evocative photos, it was one of the AP’s most-read stories for the week, with excellent reader engagement. AP clients specializing in Catholic affairs ran the story prominently.

The standout work by Sullivan and Swarup contributed to the week’s remarkable body of work across the AP in covering abuse by clergy. For exposing long-held scandals in India’s Catholic ministries, Sullivan and Swarup share AP’s Best of the Week.

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Sept. 21, 2018

Best of the States

Abuse scandal hits Texas diocese as cardinal meets with pope

Houston-based reporter Nomaan Merchant broke important news about the role of an influential American cardinal in an abuse scandal in his home diocese, just as the cardinal was meeting with Pope Francis to discuss reforms to address clergy abuse.

Merchant exclusively tracked down two accusers who allege a priest in the Houston archdiocese had abused them – and that church leaders, including Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, subsequently did little to nothing to keep him out of the ministry and away from children.

The allegations were significant on their own given the current abuse crisis roiling the Catholic church. But they were made even more newsworthy in that they implicated DiNardo just as he met with the pope to discuss the church’s handling of sex abuse cases. The accusers said they personally complained to DiNardo about the priest and believed they were brushed off.

Merchant's reporting made an immediate splash in Houston-area media and religion news sources. It was also the talk of the Vatican gathering in Rome.

For his efforts, Merchant wins this week's Best of States.

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Aug. 03, 2018

Best of the Week

AP reveals: Catholic nuns accuse clergy of sexual abuse

It was a #MeToo moment from the Vatican with a seemingly unlikely accuser – a nun.

Vatican correspondent Nicole Winfield’s interview with a nun, who broke a 20-year-silence about being physically assaulted by an Italian priest, and reporting by Uganda correspondent Rodney Muhumuza about the scope of abuse in Africa, resulted in the AP being the first news organization to chronicle the global impact on nuns of the #MeToo movement.

Their story, which included expert analysis and exclusive Vatican comment urging nuns to report and bishops to sanction abusive priests, earns the Beat of the Week.

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