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Pope Francis’ new spokesman is a St. Louis native

Greg Burke, the new director of the Vatican press office and Vatican spokesman, and Paloma Garcia Ovejero, the new vice director, are pictured with Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the outgoing Vatican spokesman, during an announcement of their appointments at an informal meeting with journalists at the Vatican press office July 11. Burke, a native of St. Louis, has worked for the Vatican since 2012 and prior to that was a television correspondent for Fox News. Garcia Ovejero is a Spanish journalist who worked for the radio operation of the Spanish Bishops' Conference. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of CNS

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)

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Rosie Scammell

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  • More reputable publications led off with the fact that Burke was a Fox News correspondent for 11 years before being hired the Vatican and that he is an Opus Dei “supernumemary” i.e. a vowed celibate, not what city he was born in. Ovejero is a “strawberry on the cake” as Pope Francis described women theologians.

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