VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis has brought in a high-profile change of guard at the Vatican with the appointment of an American as press director and a Spanish woman to serve as the director’s deputy.
The announcement on Monday (July 11) means the Rev. Federico Lombardi, 73, will step down after a decade running the Holy See press office. The retirement of the Italian Jesuit priest paves the way for a younger, international leadership, with layman Greg Burke, 56, taking over on Aug. 1.
The appointment of an American as the Vatican’s chief spokesman — serving as the voice of Pope Francis — is the latest move to reform its vast communications machine. Burke’s promotion will see the vacant deputy post taken up by Paloma García Ovejero, 40, currently Vatican correspondent for Spanish radio Cadena Cope.
A former Fox News correspondent, Burke has been deputy director of the press office since December and previously worked as a communications adviser to the Vatican secretary of state.
Burke grew up in a Catholic family in St. Louis and as a student became a member of the conservative Opus Dei organization. He has worked for numerous publications, including the National Catholic Register, since graduating from Columbia University in New York.
García Ovejero breaks new ground in being the first woman to take up the position. Originally from Madrid, she also has U.S. experience, having studied at New York University.
The duo will be the go-to voices of the Vatican for the world’s media and their appointment signals a more outward-looking approach from the city state, which has long been criticized for having a burdensome administration dominated by Italians.
(Rosie Scammell is RNS’ Vatican correspondent)