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ROME/ Amid Media Meltdown, The Vatican Goes Fox-Hunting

June Mon 25, 2012

Greg Burke  Greg Burke

Earlier today (June 23), the Pope held another of his occasional "Cabinet" meetings with his dicastery chiefs. Yet while the latest of the sporadic conferences dealt with the fallout of the recent fiasco surrounding leaked Vatican documents -- a story whose resemblance to an Italian soap-opera has made it cat-nip for the global media -- a subsequent development served to underscore the degree to which the failures of the scandal are being chalked up more to failures of messaging than of governance.

Turning to a highly-regarded hand among Rome's foreign press, the Associated Press leaked earlier this afternoon that Greg Burke (above right) -- Fox News' correspondent in the city since 2001 -- was hired by the Secretariat of State as a "senior communications adviser." According to the wire, the lead Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, subsequently confirmed the move.

The Curial office buffeted most intensely by the torrent of leaks, State likewise oversees the various media arms connected with the church's central governance: Vatican Radio and Television, L'Osservatore Romano, and the Holy See Press Office. The four were brought under the umbrella of the "clearinghouse" dicastery in 1984, when the new head of its Information Office, then-Msgr Crescenzio Sepe (today the cardinal-archbishop of Naples) brought aboard the duo who would become the lead framing agents of the pontificate of John Paul II: the Spanish journalist Joaquin Navarro-Valls to lead the Press Office, and the Italian Christian Democratic politician Mario Agnes to run the newspaper, which marked its 150th anniversary last year.

Of course, Burke's nod likewise continues a legacy of Americans brought in to enhance the Holy See's media presence, a line begun by Philadelphia's own John Foley, who led the Pontifical Council of Social Communications from 1984 to 2007. Having moonlighted as the US media's lead Vatican liaison as well as the "patron saint of the Catholic press" both at home and beyond, the beloved graduate of Columbia University's School of Journalism was subsequently made a cardinal by Benedict, and kept up his many newsroom friendships until his death last December from leukemia at 76.

A numerary of Opus Dei (like Navarro-Valls), the St Louis-born Burke -- who worked the Rome beat for TIME magazine before joining TV's most-watched news outlet -- will answer to the Assesore at Stato, Msgr Peter Wells, a priest of Tulsa.



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