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Issue Date:  March 31, 2006

John Allen headed for New York

By NCR Staff

John L. Allen Jr., the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter based in Rome for the past six years, will be relocating to New York in July, a move that will allow him to report more extensively on the Catholic church in the United States as well as to travel and report on the Catholic community worldwide.

Even though Allen will move to the United States, said NCR editor Tom Roberts, he will remain the paper’s Rome correspondent. NCR will maintain an office and residence in Rome, which will allow Allen to spend periods of time there, particularly during the spring and fall, and to travel there anytime the news requires.

“John Allen has done a remarkable job of explaining the Vatican, its inner workings and what it all means to the Catholic community and the world at large,” Roberts said. “He has brought an unparalleled level of sophistication and balance to Catholic journalism. Six years ago, NCR decided that it was essential to place a reporter in Rome, and the paper made an enormous investment of resources for a small publication in order to make that happen. Experience has confirmed the wisdom of that assessment, and the Vatican beat remains an important priority.

“While we would love to see John Allen remain in Rome for the foreseeable future,” said Roberts, “we also are happy to accommodate his personal and professional wishes to return to the United States and to broaden his reporting horizons.”

Being in New York and removed from, as Allen puts it, the “day-to-day vicissitudes at the Vatican” will provide the freedom and location from which to respond to Catholic news wherever it breaks.

“Catholicism in the 21st century will be increasingly ‘upside down,’ driven by the experience and energy of the global South, meaning Africa, Asia and Latin America,” Allen said. “I want to tell the story of how this transition will reconfigure virtually everything inside Catholicism, by spending time in those places, figuring out what makes the churches there tick, and then teasing out how that will influence broader trends.”

Being in New York will allow Allen to bring his international experience to reporting on issues, trends and personalities in American Catholicism.

“When I lecture, I’m fond of reminding American audiences that we represent just 6 percent of the global Catholic population -- 67 million out of 1.1 billion,” said Allen. “Out of both theological and sociological necessity, the future of American Catholicism is tied up with 94 percent of the Catholics in the world who live outside the United States. I want to try to bring that perspective to placing American Catholic stories in their broader context.”

Allen said he hopes that his experience in coming to know a wide variety of Catholic personalities and movements around the world “will be useful in helping to think past the ideological and tribal divisions that often characterize public discussion of Catholic matters in America. Doing so is part of telling the whole Catholic story, striving to be fair to all points of view, and providing readers with the fullest possible set of facts and perspectives.

NCR, uniquely among American Catholic publications, is trying to do two things at once: keep the institutional church honest by reporting tough stories on its political, administrative and financial dimensions, while at the same time striving to promote a responsible dialogue across party lines. I hope my base in New York will allow me to contribute to that mission in a new way,” said Allen.

Finally, being in the United States will make it easier to respond to speaking invitations “without stealing too much time away from my primary responsibilities as a reporter and analyst.”

During his time in Rome, Allen has traveled on 16 papal trips to 22 countries; covered the second half of the Great Jubilee year in 2000; the eruption in 2002 of the sexual abuse crisis and the Vatican response; John Paul II’s moral opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq; the long decline of John Paul and his eventual death; the election of Benedict XVI; and the first year of Benedict’s papacy.

In addition to the conclave that elected Benedict, his reporting has included three synods and three consistories. He has interviewed the head of every office in the Vatican as well as scores of other officials, more than half the members of College of Cardinals and hundreds of bishops, priests, religious and laity from almost every country on earth.

Allen will maintain his weekly Internet column on, which beginning in July will be rechristened “All Things Catholic,” reflecting his new circumstances.

National Catholic Reporter, March 31, 2006

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