Pope Francis names US reporter as spokesman along with first female deputy

(Photo: L'Osservatore Romano)Pope Francis meets with Greg Burke and Paloma García Ovejero, July 11, 2016.

Pope Francis has named a former Time magazine and Fox News correspondent to head up the Vatican press office and appointed the Holy See's first-ever female deputy spokesperson.

American Greg Burke, 56, the former communications adviser for the Vatican, was named July 11 as the new director of the Holy See press office.

The new vice-director will be Paloma García Ovejero, 40,who was previously the Rome and Vatican correspondent for the Spanish broadcaster COPR and is first woman appointed to the position.

American Greg Burke, 56, was brought in by the Vatican in 2013 to overhaul its public-relations operation and will take up the post on Aug. 1, when outgoing chief spokesman Father Federico Lombardi steps down.

Burke received the appointment from Pope Francis after the current director, Lombardi, a Jesui priest, 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 announcement was made. Francis had said he had "prayed on this appointment," Burke recounted of his meeting with the pontiff, Catholic News Agency reported.

Burke, who also worked as correspondent in Rome for the Catholic weekly National Catholic Reporter, is a member of the influential conservative Catholic group Opus Dei, meaning he is a lay person but is celibate.

"By naming Greg Burke as his new spokesman, Pope Francis hit a three," wrote Vatican watcher John L. Allen wrote on the Cruxnow website.

"He's debunked impressions of being anti-American, he's shown that competence matters, and he's signaled openness to groups seen as conservative. For a bonus, Francis tapped a lay woman as Burke's number two."

Allen noted that there are many Vatican positions that exercise more real power, but few are more publicly recognizable than the papal spokesman.

"For most of the Pope Benedict XVI era, and all of the early stages of Francis' papacy, Lombardi has been the most-quoted figure in Catholicism after the popes he served, and thus he played an enormously important role in shaping public perceptions of the Church."

In February, Burke was named vice-director of the Holy See press office where he worked under Lombardi after joining as the senior communications adviser to the Vatican Secretary of State in 2012.

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, specializing in journalism.

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