Nicole Winfield spoke to Elon students, faculty and community members Friday night about her experience as a Rome-based Vatican correspondent for The Associated Press.

During the past 13 years as Vatican correspondent, Winfield has covered three popes - John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis.

Winfield, originally from New York City, says that she has the opportunity to see the Pope in a "vastly different light" than the general population does. She went on to describe international Papal trips and the exhaustion that is felt not only by the reporters following around the Pope all day but by the Pope himself.

Winfield is one of about 60 members of the media that gets to travel with the Pope regularly whenever he makes international trips.

One thing Winfield says she has learned from her time as Vatican correspondent is that when Pope Francis goes "off-script," as she calls it, anything can happen.

Winfield spoke of one mid-flight press conference, where Pope Francis came to the media, and answered every question asked of him, "even the hard ones," Winfield said.

This was out of the ordinary, as Popes in the past have had press secretaries screen all questions before answering a select few pre-screened questions.

Winfield has also reported on the sex abuse scandal in the church, as well as the church's relationship with the Jewish community.

"There were some serious missteps during his (Benedict's) papacy," Winfield said of the sex abuse scandal.

According to Winfield, the Catholic Church has spent more than $3 billion settling these cases.

As a correspondent who covers the headquarters of the religion she believes in and practices, Winfield finds it important to maintain a sense of balance.

"The Vatican is an institution that I cover," she said. "It doesn't really affect me. If anything, you never really want to see sausage being made - it's not a pretty process. Seeing it up close can sour you a bit on the whole enterprise."

Winfield is the sister of Elon Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Pamela Winfield. The lecture was sponsored by the School of Communications and the Truitt Center for Spiritual and Religious Life.

To view Nicole Winfield's recent work, visit http://bigstory.ap.org/content/nicole-winfield.


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