The Vatican closes the year with significant changes in its communication network, at a decisive moment for the reforms of Pope Francis. The spokesman of the Pontiff, the American Greg Burke and the deputy speaker, the Spanish Paloma García Ovejero have resigned on Monday, as reported by the Holy See in a brief statement in which the reason for the resignation is not indicated. Francisco has accepted the resignations and has appointed as provisional director of the Vatican press room Alessandro Gisotti, who until now coordinated the social networks of the Dicastery for Communication, the body in charge of the reformulation of the communicative structure and that encompasses all Vatican media
The Argentine pontiff established in 2015, at the beginning of his pontificate, the secretariat for the Vatican Communication – which has been renamed the Dicastery for Communication in 2018 – one of the cornerstones of his great transformation of the Roman Curia together with the economic reform and the fight against sexual abuse committed by the clergy. Burke and García Ovejero have been the first spokespersons since the beginning of the renovation.
The prefect of the Dicastery, Paolo Ruffini, thanked the "significant commitment to the path of reform" of both and assured that his resignation responds to "an autonomous and free choice." He has also opted for a "quick relief". Ruffini points out that 2019 will be a "dense" year that will require "a maximum effort of communication" given the importance of some appointments and acts of the Pope, such as the crucial February summit in the Vatican with the Episcopal conferences from around the world to address pedophilia and the protection of minors; or the World Youth Day next January, the Synod of the Amazon and several international trips.
Burke (Saint Louis, United States, 1959) and García Ovejero (Madrid, 1972) were appointed spokesperson and deputy spokesperson for the Pope on July 11, 2016. The Spanish journalist, who served as a correspondent for the Cope radio station in Italy and the Vatican , was the first woman who acceded to the post of deputy director of the press room. Burke joined his university years as a full member of Opus Dei. He worked at the United Press International agency in Chicago, for the Reuters agency and for the weekly Metropolitan, until he was sent to Rome as correspondent of the magazine National Catholic Register and later on Fox News.
The information of his resignation was published, Burke tweeted: "Paloma and I have resigned on January 1. In this moment of transition in the Vatican's communication we think it is better that the Pope be completely free to organize a new team. " García Ovejero also announced his resignation in this social network without going into more details: "A stage ends. Thank you, holy father, for these two and a half years! Thank you, Greg, for your trust, your patience and your example. "
This year has been particularly moved for Vatican communication, one of the priorities of the Pontiff since his arrival in Rome, as demonstrated in 2015 with the establishment of the specific secretariat to manage this field. In March, the head of the Communication Department resigned amidst heavy criticism and in charge of guiding the reforms of the media, Dario Edoardo Viganó, after being accused of having manipulated a letter of Benedict XVI. A few months later, in July, the Pope changed the name of the organization and put the journalist Paolo Ruffini, the first layman who guides a Vatican ministry, at the head of the current Dicastery. One of his first decisions was the renewal, on December 18, of the newspaper address of the Holy See, L'Osservatore Romano, now ruled by Italian religion professor and writer Andrea Monda, replacing the previous director, Giovanni Maria Vian, who had been in charge for 11 years.
On the same day, Prefect Ruffini also put the Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli at the head of the editorial direction of the Dicastery. That position, whose mission is to coordinate the editorial line of all the Vatican media, it had been created in 2015, at the beginning of the reform and had remained vacant until now.