After their private talk they exchanged gifts, and Mr. Biden gave the pope a presidential challenge coin that featured Delaware, his home state, and Beau’s Army National Guard unit. “I know my son would want me to give this to you,” he said.

As Francis showed Mr. Biden and Jill Biden, the first lady, to the door, Mr. Biden was in no rush to leave.

He unspooled a folksy yarn that referred to both he and the pope ascending to their positions later in life. In a nod to their ages — he is 78 and Francis is 84 — he relayed a story about Satchel Paige, the legendary Black player who pitched the majority of his career in the Negro Leagues, and who was allowed to join the Major Leagues only in his 40s.

“Usually, pitchers lose their arms when they’re 35,” Mr. Biden said to the pope, who seemed a little lost by the baseball reference. “He pitched a win on his 47th birthday.”

As Mr. Biden explained it, reporters asked the pitcher: “‘Satch, no one’s ever pitched a win at age 47. How do you feel about pitching a win on your birthday?’” and the pitcher responded: “‘Boys, that’s not how I look at age. I look at it this way: How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?’”

The pope looked at Mr. Biden.

“You’re 65, I’m 60,” the president said. “God love ya.”

Jim Tankersley contributed reporting from Rome, and Ruth Graham from Dallas.

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Why Do Humans Feed So Many Animals?

The group will largely restrict itself to the last 2,000 years, but Dr. Black said some detours are irresistible, like the Tomb of the Eagles, a 5,000-year-old stone-age site in the Orkney Islands known officially as the Ibister Chambered Cairn. The cairn, or tomb, held about 16,000 human bones, and the remains of about 30 white-tailed sea eagles, Dr. Black said. “They were deposited over quite a significant period of time,” he said, “so it was people coming back, putting eagle remains in there.”

He said: “The key question that nobody has really answered at the moment is whether people went out and killed and then deposited them as a sort of an offering. There is a suggestion that they may have been pets.” If that were the case, the eagles would have probably been eating a different diet than wild eagles that were foraging at sea.

Dr. Sykes sees much of the human habit of feeding animals in the light of domestication, which she says happened as much through the process of humans feeding animals as it did through catching and corralling them to eat. That seems clear enough with our close companions, dogs and cats.

It also seems that some animals that we now eat, like chickens and rabbits, may have first come into our lives not as food, but as eaters.

And, she said, “domestication is not this thing that happened way back when, in this kind of neolithic moment where everybody got together and goes, we’re going to domesticate animals. I just don’t buy it. I think it’s something that has not only continued throughout time, but it’s really accelerating.”

Bird feeding is just one example, and that sets off warning bells for her, because domestication and extinction often go together even if the cause and effect isn’t clear.

The aurochs gave way to cattle. There are plenty of domestic cats in Britain, but just a few Scottish wildcats. Wolves are still here but not the wolves that dogs descended from. They are extinct. And modern wolves are just hanging on, while dogs might number a billion. Their future, at least in terms of numbers, is bright. As long as there are people, there will be dogs. No one knows what they will look like, and whether we will have to brush their teeth day and night, and spend a fortune on their haircuts. But they will be here.

The same cannot be said of wolves. And as wild creatures go extinct, we all lose.

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2 Americans Found Guilty of Murder of Italian Police Officer

ROME — Two American men were found guilty of murder on Wednesday and sentenced to life for the killing of an Italian military police officer in July 2019, when the two young San Francisco natives were vacationing in Rome.

Ending a 14-month trial held mostly behind closed doors because of pandemic restrictions, a jury found Finnegan Elder, 21, and Gabriel Natale Hjorth, 20, guilty of the murder of Deputy Brig. Mario Cerciello Rega, 35.

Gasps were heard across the courtroom as the verdicts were announced, and the slain officer’s widow leaned against her lawyer and sobbed.

The two Americans were in their teens on July 26, 2019, when an early-morning scuffle on a deserted street corner with two plainclothes police officers — Brigadier Cerciello Rega and another officer, Andrea Varriale — turned deadly.

homicidal intent.

The fight capped a convoluted evening that began with an aborted drug deal in a trendy nightlife neighborhood. After an unsuccessful attempt to buy cocaine, the two Americans stole a backpack belonging to Sergio Brugiatelli, a middleman who had brokered that drug deal, and then demanded money for the bag’s return.

Brigadier Cerciello Rega and his partner had been dispatched to retrieve the backpack, and the officer was killed at the rendezvous for the handover.

Mr. Elder repeatedly stabbed Brigadier Cerciello Rega with an seven-inch military-style knife after they began fighting, and Mr. Natale Hjorth briefly wrestled with Officer Varriale. Mr. Elder never denied killing Brigadier Cerciello Rega, but said he had acted in self-defense, believing that the officer was trying to choke him.

The teenagers were arrested at their hotel, just down the block from where Brigadier Cerciello Rega was killed, a few hours after the murder.

last July, he said that they had pulled out their badges and clearly announced themselves.

The case attracted international attention in part because of the young ages of the victim and the men on trial. Brigadier Cerciello Rega, who had just returned to work after his honeymoon, was given a hero’s funeral, broadcast live on national television.

Mr. Elder and Mr. Natale Hjorth have spent the last 21 months in prisons in Rome while awaiting the trial and verdict.

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$18 Million Refit of Colosseum Will Give Visitors a Gladiator’s View

ROME — It is a view that gladiators would once have experienced as they prepared for mortal combat: staring into the banked crowds of the Colosseum, perhaps under the gaze of the mighty Roman emperor himself.

Nearly 2,000 years later, visitors to the Colosseum will again be able to stand in almost the same place and imagine the spectators’ roar, after the Italian Culture Ministry on Sunday announced the winning project in a competition to build a replacement floor for the landmark in Rome.

The chosen design features a lattice of specially treated wooden slats that can be rotated to allow air to circulate and to expose the beehive of subterranean corridors. It was created by a team led by Milan Ingegneria, an engineering consulting company, and is expected to cost about 15 million euros, or $18 million. The surface is expected to be in use by 2023.

At the moment, most of the underground chambers are exposed to view, with only a small section of floor at one end. That section — about 650 square meters, or 7,000 square feet — was installed in 2000 and was used for the first time that year for a staging of “Oedipus Rex,” by Sophocles.

underground pulleys to raise the beasts to the arena floor. Those and other areas were buried until the late 19th century, when the hypogeum, or underground area, began to be excavated.

Mr. Franceschini noted that the floor of the arena had been intact at that time and referred to one photograph, from about 1870, that showed the hypogeum totally covered.

The new surface will be installed at the level of the original flooring of the monument, which was inaugurated in about 80 A.D. Among the innovations of the chosen project, one of 11 designs considered, rainwater will be collected for the monument’s public bathrooms.

Referring to the winning design, Ms. Russo, the Colosseum director, said, “The structure is light and recalls both in form and function the original plan of the wooden arena at the time it was first in use.” She added that the project had taken into account requirements to protect the monument and to be ecologically sustainable.

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After 500 Years, an Ancient Bronze Hand Is Rejoined to a Finger

In fact, the finger had been considered irreparably lost. But in 2010 Aurélia Azéma, a French Ph.D. student researching welding techniques used in making ancient large bronzes, hypothesized that the Louvre digit might belong to the Constantine at the Capitoline. The theory was confirmed eight years later when a French team of scholars and a curator from the Louvre made a resin reproduction of the finger from a 3-D model and went to the Capitoline to see if it fit.

“It was perfect,” Ms. Azéma said in an email. “Like two pieces of a puzzle.”

Mr. Parisi Presicce said that at the time, Jean-Luc Martinez, president-director of the Musée du Louvre, “immediately decided it was right” for the finger to be returned to its hand, he said.

The finger had found its way to the Louvre in 1863, where for a brief time (1913-1915) it had been cataloged as a toe. It arrived via a large group of artworks that had once belonged to Giampietro Campana, a Roman art collector and archaeologist who had amassed one of the great collections of the 19th century.

He was accused of embezzlement in 1857, and his collection was confiscated and put up for sale in 1861. Napoleon III acquired one large lot, which was exhibited at the Louvre, and another lot was acquired by Emperor Alexander II for the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The finger and the hand were brought together for the first time in 2018, for an exhibition featuring the Campana collection at the Louvre that in 2019 traveled to the Hermitage.

Finally, the Louvre finger arrived at the Capitoline this week for a “renewable loan,” the French museum said in a statement. It was affixed to the hand “though an almost invisible, noninvasive and reversible system,” Mr. Parisi Presicce said.

The newly rejoined hand is exhibited next to the other pieces that made up the original nucleus of statues donated to the public by Sixtus IV, which includes the “She-wolf,” the famed symbol of Rome.

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Pope Francis Delivers Sunday Blessing in Person After a Month

Pope Francis spoke to the faithful from his study overlooking St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, the first time he had done so in just over a month.

“I’ll tell you something: I miss the square when I have to recite the Angelus in the library,’ Francis said, referring to the prayer that he leads the faithful in praying on most Sundays. Throughout the pandemic, the pope has often delivered the weekly address, prayer and blessing from the apostolic library, with no public in attendance.

“I am happy, thanks be to God! And thank you for your presence,” the pope said Sunday, smiling.

The pope identified several flags among the several hundred faithful in the square, “Brazilians, Poles, Spanish people,” Francis said, offering a “warm greeting” also to the “people of Rome and pilgrims.”

Italy suffered one of the earliest and most severe outbreaks of the coronavirus in Europe. During the first lockdown, in 2020, pilgrims were not allowed to gather in St. Peter’s Square from March 8 to May 24. A huge surge over the winter brought back new restrictions, and another that peaked last month prompted another tight lockdown. That has succeeded in lowering infections, and many restrictions are expected to be eased beginning on April 26.

setting off alarms in Europe and Washington, the largest build up since the conflict in the contested region began seven years ago.

“Please, I firmly hope that the increase of tensions may be avoided and, on the contrary, gestures may be made that are capable of promoting mutual trust and fostering reconciliation and peace, both so necessary and so desired,” Francis said.

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Return of Traffic Cops to Landmark Piazza Brings Unlikely Joy in Rome

ROME — If, as it’s said, all roads lead to Rome, then they intersect at Piazza Venezia, the downtown hub of the Italian capital, watched over by a traffic officer on a pedestal who choreographs streamlined circulation out of automotive chaos.

For many Romans and tourists alike, those traffic controllers are as much a symbol of the Eternal City as the Colosseum or the Pantheon.

That may explain why the return this week of the pedestal (plus its traffic cop) after a yearlong hiatus while the piazza was being paved, set off a media frenzy — even if there was little traffic to direct given the widespread lockdown that began this week to contain an upsurge of coronavirus cases.

“In this difficult period, I think that it was seen as a sign of something returning to normal,” said Fabio Grillo, 53, who, with 16 years under his belt, is the senior member of the team of four or five municipal police officers who direct traffic from the Piazza Venezia pedestal.

white-gloved hands is something that all Italian motorists dutifully memorize for their driver’s tests. (Important note: Two hands straight out with palms facing motorists is equivalent to a red light).

“It’s been compared to conducting an orchestra,” said Mr. Grillo.

Apart from regular traffic, Piazza Venezia is also a crossroads that leads to City Hall, the Parliament, Italy’s presidential palace and a national monument where visiting heads of state routinely pay homage — which all contributes to the chaos at the hub.

a book. He retired in 2007. “He was an icon for us,” said Mr. Grillo.

film festival under the stage name Pierre Marchionne.

Working on Mr. Allen’s film “was a unique experience,” he said.

It’s notable that Romans in particular should feel so friendly toward someone paid to punish traffic infractions, which are notoriously frequent in the Italian capital.

Until the 1970s, every Jan. 6, the feast day of Epiphany, Italians would express their gratitude to the officers by covering traffic pedestals with gifts. The loot was then given to charity, Mr. Grillo said.

That unlikely affection may have had much to do with Alberto Sordi, an actor who frequently played traffic officers in movies, most notably in the 1960 classic “Il Vigile.”

in a museum opened in the actor’s home in Rome, now shut because of the pandemic.

history of municipal police forces in Italy posted on the website of one national association traces their origins to the guardians of a Roman temple in the 5th century B.C. An educational film from the early 1950s from Italy’s national archive, Istituto Luce, however, instead traces the corps’ history to the first century B.C., during the reign of the Emperor Augustus (there’s a nice touch of a chariot segueing into a convertible).

Today, Piazza Venezia has the only traffic pedestal left in the city. “It is part of the architecture of the piazza,” said Mr. Gallicchio, the kiosk owner.

At first, the pedestals were made of wood, and traffic officers would carry them into crossings.

At one point, a fixed, cement pedestal was installed in the piazza, lit up by a spotlight on a nearby building at night when no officer was on duty, Mr. Gallicchio said.

The spotlight didn’t help as “motorists kept smashing into it,” Mr. Grillo said. So in 2006 it was replaced with a mechanical pedestal that rises from the paving stones to welcome officers arriving for work.

Now, with the work done on the piazza this year, the officers say they are keen to get back to a job they love and hopefully, become a focus of tourists’ cameras again after the pandemic passes.

“Maybe we weren’t as famous as the Fountain of Trevi, but we were a tourist attraction.” Mr. Battisti said with a smile. “I bet there are even photos of us in North Korea.”

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Covid-19 Conundrum in Rome: More Homeless on Streets as Shelters Shrink

ROME — On an icy evening last month, Akas Kazi, a 35-year-old originally from Bangladesh, huddled under a blanket in the portico of one of Rome’s main post offices, as Red Cross volunteers distributed hot meals of pasta and tea.

Working in a restaurant kitchen had barely paid the bills, but after the restaurant closed six months ago — yet another casualty of the pandemic — Mr. Kazi found himself living on the street. “No work, no money for rent,” he said.

Job searches had been fruitless: “There’s nothing,” he said. And even sleeping on friends’ couches was not an option. “Everyone has problems because of Covid.”

The winter has been especially hard: Since November, 12 homeless people have died on the streets of Rome, where a growing number of people have ended up because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rome branch of the Catholic charity Caritas.

Community of St. Egidio, a Catholic charity. Capacity there fell to 10 beds from 30, after wooden partitions were erected between the cots to ensure social distancing.

Caritas estimates that some 7,700 people are on the streets. Some social workers put the number at almost twice that. For City Hall, “those are absurd numbers” and don’t reflect reality, said Veronica Mammì, the municipal councilor in charge of social services, who estimated the number of homeless at closer to 3,000.

Daniele Archibugi of the Institute for Research on Population and Social Policies, Italian Research Council, who is studying the financial impact of the pandemic in Italy, noted that many Italians work in the country’s informal economy and are not recorded, “so one of the problems is to find and reach them.”

isolation shelter, repeatedly testing its guests, who must remain there for 10 days before they are sent to other refuges.

Of the 200 men who have passed through the shelter in the past month, only one tested positive. “It’s almost miraculous,” said Mr. Farneti. (There is some anecdotal evidence that the isolated lives of homeless people make them less vulnerable to the virus.)

Rome’s Red Cross. “And the homeless suffer because bars and restaurants are closed so it’s more difficult to find food.”

association that lobbies for the rights of the homeless.

Twice a week, and more often when it’s cold, the Red Cross team brings food and blankets, as well as face masks and hand sanitizer, to those whom Emiliano Loppa, a volunteer coordinator, described as Rome’s “most isolated people.” They live downtown in makeshift camps under the bridges along the Tiber River, under porticos and even in the nooks of ancient ruins.

died on the streets, including Modesta Valenti, who became something of an icon when she died in 1983 after an ambulance refused to transport her.

Over the past year, the number of homeless people has “clearly increased,” Mr. Signifredi said. with a housing crisis adding to the problem, even though the government made evictions illegal during the state of emergency. “We have said that the pandemic unleashed the poverty of the penultimate — those who barely made it to the end of the month and now can’t make it to the 10th, so they come to us or Caritas,” he said.

St. Egidio has opened several new dormitories and also drafted an agreement with a hotel whose rooms had been empty since the pandemic began. But it’s not enough. “We’ve asked authorities to react more quickly to emergencies,” because the emergency was not going away anytime soon, he said.

“The kind of poverty has changed,” said Claudio Campani, a coordinator of the Forum for Street Volunteers, an umbrella group for some 50 associations that assist Rome’s homeless. “Now you have the so-called ‘new poor’ who go to live in their cars before ending up on the street.” And while many homeless people are immigrants, “the number of Italians has increased,” he said.

For Mr. Pavani, the year has been one long cautionary tale.

“The thread that binds us to normality is so fine that it can take very little — loss of work, a weakness, a separation — for that thread to break and for us to fall and lose our life story and roots,” he said.

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Prosecutor Seeks Life Sentence for Americans in Killing of Italian Officer

ROME — An Italian prosecutor on Saturday asked that two San Francisco men on trial in the 2019 killing of a military police officer in Rome receive the maximum sentence of life in prison.

Wrapping up a nearly four-hour summation in a stuffy Rome courtroom, the prosecutor, Maria Sabina Calabretta, argued that the two men acted with “homicidal intent” when they assaulted Deputy Brig. Mario Cerciello Rega and his partner on a July night in 2019.

“A grave injustice” had been “committed against a good man who was working,” she said, and only the convictions of Finnegan Elder, 21 and Gabriel Natale Hjorth, 20, would ensure that the officer “not be killed again.”

The yearlong trial has drawn intense media scrutiny in Italy and headlines in the United States with its focus on the behavior of the two Americans the night of the confrontation and the tragic death of the newly married officer.

this past week, Mr. Elder testified that he thought the two plainclothes officers were “thugs” sent by the middleman whose knapsack they had stolen, and that he and Mr. Natale Hjorth had acted in self-defense after the two officers jumped them. He said he had “panicked,” and stabbed Brigadier Cerciello Rega, who he thought was trying to choke him.

Mr. Elder testified that the two officers did not identify themselves as carabinieri and that they did not show their badges when they approached him and Mr. Natale Hjorth, a San Francisco school friend who had joined him for two days in Rome during the last leg of a summer trip in Europe.

Ms. Calabretta on Saturday challenged Mr. Elder’s account of the confrontation, noting that Officer Varriale had testified last summer that the officers had identified themselves as law enforcement and shown their badges.

The prosecutor also contested the defense narrative that suggested that the two Americans had been unexpectedly tackled by the officers from behind. Instead, she said Saturday, the two officers had approached them head-on and had been assaulted by the defendants without a second thought.

“Cerciello had no time to react,” she said.

“It was a violent, deadly, disproportionate attack,” she said.

Mr. Elder had brought a knife to the encounter, a sign of his “homicidal intent,” she added.

In his statement to the court last Monday, Mr. Elder said he had put the knife in the pocket of his hoodie because it made him “feel safer.”

After the confrontation, the two defendants returned to their nearby hotel unaware, they testified, of the seriousness of Brigadier Cerciello Rega’s condition. They were arrested in their hotel room a few hours later.

In asking for a life sentence, Ms. Calabretta said that neither the young age of the defendants nor their lack of criminal records should mitigate “the seriousness of the crime.”

The two defendants have also been charged with extortion for asking for money and a gram of cocaine in exchange for the backpack.

Ms. Calabretta said Saturday that even though Mr. Natale Hjorth had not wielded the knife that killed the officer he was equally guilty, the mastermind of the plot to exchange the backpack for money.

His lawyer, Francesco Petrelli, said Saturday that the prosecutor had asked for “the wrong sanction for the wrong defendant in a wrong trial.”

A verdict is expected before the summer.

Brigadier Cerciello Rega’s widow, Rosa Maria Esilio, declined to speak to reporters on Saturday. Her lawyer, Massimo Ferrandino, said the prosecutor’s request resulted from an “exhaustive” investigation that would now be up to the jury to confirm.

“We look forward to justice being done,” he said.

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