John Thavis, a 60-year-old native of Minnesota, was Rome bureau chief of Catholic News Service, the world’s largest and oldest religious news agency. He began working as a journalist in 1978 for the Rome newspaper, the Daily American. From 1979–82 he was news editor of the The Free Press in Mankato, Minnesota. He returned to Italy in 1982, wrote a popular guidebook to Rome and worked for the Associated Press, ABC News, and Wine Spectator. In 1983, he joined Catholic News Service and began reporting full-time on the Vatican and religious affairs. He became CNS Rome bureau chief in 1996. In addition to Vatican coverage, Thavis has written extensively on religious affairs in Europe and the Middle East, winning awards for his first-hand reporting on war in the Balkans. He served three years as president of the Association of Vatican Journalists, the only American to ever hold that position.