VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis named two experienced journalists — including its first female vice director — to lead the Vatican press office.
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 press office.
Speaking to journalists July 11, Msgr. Vigano praised Father Lombardi’s professional work and his “ecclesial vision” of the church.
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 pontificates.”
“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 archbishop said.
He said Burke was “long known to us in the United States as a devoted man of the church and an unparalleled communicator.”
Help us keep you informed -- CatholicPhilly.com can't do it without youDuring CatholicPhilly.com's fall donation campaign, you have a way to help us deliver the kind of news you need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live. Every household's costs keep rising, and we're no different. We make sure your dollars in any amount go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month. Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can -- a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Or by credit card here: