Fox News man hired by Vatican for image makeover
THE scandal-plagued Vatican has hired a US news specialist to drag its public relations operation out of the dark ages.
But for modernisers seeking fresh air in the dusty corridors of the Holy See, the development has been tempered with the news that he is an Opus Dei member from the right-wing US Fox News channel.
Greg Burke (52), Fox News's Rome correspondent, will become "senior communications adviser" to the Secretariat of State, the key department in Vatican City.
He will report to the Vatican's deputy secretary of state, Archbishop Angelo Becciu. Father Federico Lombardi will stay as a spokesman.
Mr Burke will be the only person in the communications team with considerable print and TV experience from outside the world of Catholic media. "Am I being hired because I'm in Opus Dei?" he asked. "It might come into play."
The last outsider with a key role in the Vatican's communications structure was Spanish journalist Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who was hired by Pope John Paul II.
He was also a member of ultra-conservative Opus Dei.
Pope John Paul II's papacy was credited with an efficient PR machine -- something the current regime lacks.
Communications disasters during Benedict XVI's reign include the Pope's 2009 decision to lift the excommunication of a bishop later discovered to have denied the full extent of the Holocaust.
There was also the Pope's speech about Muslims and violence, and the Vatican's tardy response to the 2010 explosion of the clerical abuse scandal.
The Vatican is battling embarrassing leaks that have raised new questions about corruption in the Holy See and have thrown a light on the poisonous atmosphere in its upper echelons.
Insiders say Mr Burke will find it tough dealing with labyrinthine Vatican politics and a more intrusive media. (©Independent News Service)