Vatican turns to Fox News man Greg Burke for image makeover
Holy See hires outsider after suffering a series of public setbacks and embarrassing leaks
The scandal-plagued Vatican has hired a US news specialist to drag its public-relations operation out of the dark ages.
But for modernisers seeking fresh air in the dusty corridors of the Holy See, the development has been tempered with the news that the recruit is an Opus Dei member from the right-wing Fox News channel.
Greg Burke, 52, Fox News' Rome correspondent, will become "senior communications adviser" to the Secretariat of State, the key department in Vatican City. His role will be similar to that of White House communications advisers. He will report directly to the Vatican's deputy secretary of state, Archbishop Angelo Becciu, the third-ranking person in the Vatican hierarchy. Father Federico Lombardi will stay as a spokesman.
"I told them 'no' twice but the more I thought about it the more it seemed like the right thing to do," Mr Burke told Reuters news agency.
He will be the only person in the Vatican's communications team with considerable print and TV experience from outside the world of Catholic media. "Am I being hired because I'm in Opus Dei?" he said. "It might come into play."
The last outsider with a key role in the Vatican's communications structure was Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who was a Spanish journalist before Pope John Paul II hired him. He was also a member of ultra-conservative Opus Dei. Pope John Paul II's papacy was credited with an efficient PR machine – something the current regime lacks. Communications disasters during Benedict XVI's reign include the Pope's 2009 decision to lift the excommunication of a bishop later discovered to have denied the full extent of the Holocaust. There was also the Pope's speech about Muslims and violence, and perhaps most damaging, the Vatican's tardy response to the 2010 explosion of the clerical paedophilia scandal.
The Vatican is presently battling embarrassing leaks that have raised new questions about corruption in the Holy See and have thrown a light on the poisonous atmosphere in the institution's upper echelons.
Last week, the Vatican's No 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, attacked the media for trying to "play at Dan Brown" the writer of the bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code. Insiders say Mr Burke will find it tough dealing with labyrinthine Vatican politics and a more intrusive media.
Widespread dislike of the Pope and his deputy, Cardinal Bertone, is portrayed by Italian newspapers as the latter's fault.
The last outsider: John Paul II's man
Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the last news professional employed to boost the Vatican's public image, had been a professor of psychiatry in his native Spain before entering journalism and going on to cover the eastern Mediterranean for the Spanish daily newspaper ABC. In 1983, Mr Navarro-Valls – who, like the newly hired Greg Burke, was a member of Opus Dei – was summoned to the Vatican, having caught the eye of Pope John Paul II. He was soon appointed, aged 48, to overhaul the Holy See's press affairs and was an effective operator. But he was not without controversy, in 2002 appearing to link homo- sexuality with clerical paedophilia.
- 1 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
- 3 Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
- 4 Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country
- 5 Barack Obama fist bumps Texas restaurant employee in support of gay rights
Scottish independence: Scots of Corby take matters into their own hands in mock referendum - and deliver overwhelming verdict
Protesters fight to save Arturo, the polar bear sweltering in baking hot zoo
Fry ‘criticises Operation Yewtree in dinner party rant’ calling for tougher laws to deter false sex abuse allegations
Supermoon 2014 in pictures: Moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Saharan remains may be evidence of first race war, 13,000 years ago
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
War is war: Why I stand with Israel
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
Emergency data law: David Cameron plots to bring back snoopers’ charter
NUT strike: David Cameron announces crackdown on strike action ahead of mass industrial action
£28000 - £34000 per annum + excellent bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: In...
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency is currently ...
£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Software En...