Pope names American as new Vatican spokesperson

By Ann Schneible

Vatican City, Jul 11, 2016 / 02:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Greg Burke, the former American journalist and communications adviser for the Vatican, has been named the new director of the Holy See press office, it was announced Monday. The new vice-director will be Spaniard Paloma García Ovejero, the first woman ever to be appointed to the position.  

Burke received the appointment from Pope Francis after the current director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., submitted his resignation to the pontiff, the Holy See press office said in a July 11 press release.

“The purpose of my work is very clear: to serve the Pope,” Burke told journalists after the July 11 announcement was made. Francis had said he had “prayed on this appointment,” Burke recounted of his meeting with the pontiff.

Although the appointment was not unexpected, the Missouri native later told CNA it was “an honor to have been given this trust of the Pope.”  Burke went on to express his gratitude to Fr. Lombardi -- who served as director for ten years -- and lauded him for his “dedication, generosity, kindness, and patience.”

“It’s a long list of virtues, so I hope to pick up part of that,” Burke said.

Remarking on being the first woman to hold the position of vice-director, Ovejero told CNA the appointment felt “natural.”

“I’m the first woman: okay,” she said. “Isn’t the Virgin Mary the first woman in the Church? (Aren't) the women those who ran to announce the resurrection? So it seems to be very natural. We like to announce great news. Let’s do it!”

As vice-director of the Holy See press office under the pontificate of Pope Francis, the task is to “try to transmit exactly what he wants to say,” Ovejero said. “That’s my service, that’s my point. Not to invent, not do it (beautifully): just, what he says, what he wants to say, what he wants the world to know.”

In February of this year, Greg Burke was named vice-director of the Holy See press office where he worked under Fr. Lombardi, amid ongoing reforms by the Vatican Secretariat for Communications. Since 2012, Burke has been the senior communications adviser to the Vatican Secretary of State.

Born Nov. 8, 1959 in St. Louis to a Catholic family, Burke graduated in 1983 from New York's Colombia University with a degree in comparative literature, with a specialization in journalism.

Burke, who is also a member of Opus Dei, has written for a range of publications, including Reuters and the National Catholic Register. He began working for the prestigious Time magazine in 1990, and was a correspondent when John Paul II was named the magazine's “person of the year” in 1994. Starting in 2001, Burke became Fox News' correspondent in Rome, a position he held until his 2012 appointment as communications adviser to the Vatican.

The newly-named vice-director of the Holy See press office, Paloma García Ovejero, has worked as a correspondent in Italy and the Vatican since 2012 for the Spanish radio station, Cadena Cope, Radio Española, among other agencies.

Born Aug. 12, 1975 in Madrid, Ovejero received a degree in journalism from Complutense University of Madrid in 1998, followed by a masters in Basque studies in 2001. In 2006, she earned a specialization in Management Strategies and Communication from New York University.

Starting in 1998, she worked as editor and anchorwoman of Cadena Cope, Radio Española.

Between Burke and Ovejero, the director and vice-director are fluent in Italian, Spanish, French, English, and Chinese.

The new appointments will take effect Aug. 1.

Mary Shovlain contributed to this article.