Pope Francis has appointed a former Fox News correspondent to lead the Vatican press office along with the first female vice-director, as Father Federico Lombardi retires after ten years heading up the department.
Greg Burke, a native of St Louis and the current vice-director, succeeds the Italian Jesuit, while Spanish journalist Paloma Garcia Ovejero will step in to Burke's current role, making her the first female to hold that position.
Burke was Fox News’s Rome correspondent before being hired by the Vatican in 2012 as special communications adviser in the Secretariat before he was named by Pope Francis as the vice-director of the press office last December. A graduate of Columbia University's school of journalism, Burke spent 24 of his past 28 years based in Rome as a journalist - with the National Catholic Register, Time magazine and the Fox News network.
“The purpose of my work is very clear: to serve the Pope,” Burke told a press conference to announce his appointment. Burke said that Francis told him he had “prayed on this appointment”, according to the Catholic News Agency. Although the appointment was not unexpected, Burke added it was “an honour to have been given this trust of the Pope”.
The middle child of six, Burke grew up a Catholic in St Louis Hills and went to Jesuit-run St Louis University High School. He graduated in 1983 from New York's Columbia University with a degree in comparative literature, with a specialisation in journalism. He is a numerary member of Opus Dei.
Garcia Ovejero, will replace Burke as the new vice-director, and becomes the first woman to be appointed to the position. Ovejero who studied journalism in Spain and earned a masters degree in management strategies and communications at New York University, worked as the Italy and Vatican correspondent for Spanish radio broadcaster Cadena COPE.
"For me it's an honour, it's a service and it's another way of serving the church. But it is the same Church and, in some way, the same type of work: to proclaim the Good News and to transmit faithfully and with dignity the Pope's message," Garcia Ovejero told Catholic News Service.
The Spanish journalist downplayed her role as the first female vice-director of the press office, saying that the first women who served the church "were the ones who found the empty tomb and proclaimed the Resurrection to the apostles". "I am in no way the first woman. The first woman above all in the Church, in the Vatican and in the press office is the Virgin Mary," she told CNS.
Garcia Ovejero said she hoped her role will be to serve and fulfill "the will of God, the will of the Pope and, in every possible way, the will of the journalists." Both journalists will officially step in to their new roles on 1 August, the Vatican confirmed.
Born in northern Italy near Turin in 1942, Father Lombardi was named program director of Vatican Radio in 1990 and general director of the Vatican television centre, CTV, in 2001.
During the reorganisation of Vatican offices under Pope Benedict XVI, Father Lombardi was appointed general director of the radio in 2005 and head of the Vatican press office in 2006, while continuing to lead CTV. Before his retirement in 2013, Pope Benedict named Mgr Vigano the new director of CTV. Father Lombardi retired as head of Vatican Radio in February this year when the Secretariat for Communications took over the general administration of the radio.