Vatican City, Jul 12, 2016 / 11:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After the appointment of two laypersons as the new directors of the Holy See Press Office, Msgr. Dario Vigano said that while their roles haven’t yet been clearly defined amid ongoing reforms, the two will play a key role in Vatican communications.
Following the July 11 announcement of Greg Burke and Paloma Garcia Ovejero as director and vice director, respectively, of the Holy See Press Office, Msgr. Dario Vigan√≤ — prefect of the Secretariat for Communications — said the two could count on him to “lend a hand in the building of this great family of communications.”
He told journalists the new appointments are an occasion to “discuss some aspects” of what the role of director and vice director of the press office will be amid the ongoing reform of Vatican communications, adding that these roles “will be fully understood later.” He pointed out that the Press Office is one of the five sections of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications, and as head of the department, assured Burke and Ovejero of his support.
On Monday the Vatican announced that after 10 years at the helm, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, would be retiring from his position as Director of the Holy See Press Office and chief Vatican spokesperson. Replacing him will be former American journalist and Vatican communications adviser Greg Burke, who in February took over as the number two official in the Holy See Press Office. Burke’s deputy will be Paloma Garcia Ovejero, the former Rome and Vatican correspondent for Spanish broadcaster COPE and the first woman ever to hold the position of Vice Director to the Press Office.
The appointments will officially go into effect Aug. 1, following Pope Francis’ July 27-31 visit to Poland for World Youth Day. Both Burke and Garcia Ovejero will wade into their new positions amid the ongoing process of streamlining Vatican communications, which is currently being carried out according to a 4-year plan overseen by the Secretariat for Communications.
Established June 27, 2015, the Secretariat for Communications oversees all of the Vatican’s communications offices, including Vatican Radio, L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican Television Center, the Holy See Press Office, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Vatican Internet Service, the Vatican Typography, the Photograph Service, and the Vatican publishing house.
With the reform barely a year underway, the full extent of the responsibilities Burke and Ovejero will inherit remains unclear; however, with Fr. Lombardi’s long tenure as a foundation and with Vigano’s guidance, it likely won’t take long for them to jump into action. In his brief speech after the announcement of Burke and Ovejero’s appointment, Msgr. Vigano noted how the news coincided with the exact day of Fr. Lombardi’s 10 year anniversary as press office director. Lombardi’s tenure, he said, is “a long period of time” which has been marked by significant events such as the resignation of Benedict XVI and the encounter between Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Havana.
In comments to journalists after the announcement of his appointment as director of the press office, Burke said the decision wasn’t entirely “out of the blue” given his previous position as vice director, but that he was “honored and moved” by the trust that placed him in the new role. He voiced his thanks to Fr. Lombardi, whom he called “an old style Jesuit, a scholar and a gentleman.”
Burke said that for him, the purpose of his new role is clear: “to serve the Pope.” After meeting with Francis July 11 before the official announcement was made, Burke said the encounter was both moving and very personal, and that the Pope told them he had prayed a lot about the appointment.
For her part, Garcia Ovejero believes the Pope’s choice to nominate her and Burke to fill the slots is “coherent with what he preached from the beginning.” “A man and a woman, two laypersons, one North American, one from the Spanish language,” she observed, explaining that the decision is “a logical choice … it’s natural.” Pope Francis, she said, “is coherent with his words and with his vision of the Church. A Church that goes out, a Church that’s not clerical, which all of us feel a part of and feel responsible in announcing the Gospel. The mission is to announce the Gospel.”
Speaking of their meeting with the Pope, Garcia Ovejero said that Francis was “tender,” but also “serious and firm. He said clearly that fidelity, loyalty, and transparency are the most important things in communications.”