IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring
By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis named two experienced
journalists — including its first female vice director — to lead the Vatican
Greg Burke, a native of St. Louis, succeeds Italian Jesuit
Father Federico Lombardi, who retires after 10 years as head of the Vatican
press office, the Vatican announced July 11. Spanish journalist Paloma Garcia
Ovejero fills in Burke’s spot as vice director, making her the first female to
hold that position.
Burke served as special communications adviser in the
Vatican’s Secretariat of State starting in 2012 before he was named by Pope
Francis as the vice director of the press office last December.
A graduate of Columbia University’s school of journalism,
Burke spent 24 of his past 28 years based in Rome as a journalist — with the
National Catholic Register, Time magazine and the Fox News network.
The middle child of six, Burke grew up in St. Louis Hills
and went to Jesuit-run St. Louis University High School. He is a numerary
member of Opus Dei.
Msgr. Dario Vigano, prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat of
Communications, paid tribute to Father Lombardi’s 10 years of service at the
Speaking to journalists July 11, Msgr. Vigano praised Father
Lombardi’s professional work and his “ecclesial vision” of the
Born in northern Italy near Turin in 1942, Father Lombardi
was named program director of Vatican Radio in 1990 and general director of the
Vatican television center, CTV, in 2001.
During the reorganization of Vatican offices under Pope
Benedict XVI, Father Lombardi was appointed general director of the radio in
2005 and head of the Vatican press office in 2006, while continuing to lead
CTV. Before his retirement in 2013, Pope Benedict named Msgr. Vigano the new
director of CTV.
Father Lombardi retired as head of Vatican Radio in February
this year when the Secretariat for Communications took over the general
administration of the radio.
Garcia Ovejero, who studied journalism in Spain and earned a
masters degree in management strategies and communications at New York
University, worked as the Italy and Vatican correspondent for Spanish radio
broadcaster Cadena COPE.
“For me it’s an honor, it’s a service and it’s another
way of serving the church. But it is the same church and, in some way, the same
type of work: to proclaim the Good News and to transmit faithfully and with
dignity the pope’s message,” Garcia Ovejero told Catholic News Service.
The Spanish journalist downplayed her role as the first
female vice director of the press office, saying that the first women who
served the church “were the ones who found the empty tomb and proclaimed
the Resurrection to the apostles.”
“I am in no way the first woman. The first woman above
all in the church, in the Vatican and in the press office is the Virgin
Mary,” she told CNS.
Garcia Ovejero said she hoped her role will be to serve and
fulfill “the will of God, the will of the pope and, in every possible way,
the will of the journalists.”
The Vatican announced that Garcia Ovejero, a native of
Madrid, and Burke will begin their respective roles Aug. 1.
In Washington, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, congratulated all three and thanked Father
Lombardi for helping to “spread the Gospel throughout the world across two
“I was especially grateful to have learned not only
from his media expertise but also his deep love for the church during the six
days we spent together as Pope Francis visited the United States,” the
He said Burke was “long known to us in the United
States as a devoted man of the church and an unparalleled communicator.”
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