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June 25th, 2012
04:26 PM ET

Reporter leaves Fox News to join Vatican staff

By Eric Marrapodi and Dugald McConnell, CNN

(CNN) – Correspondent Greg Burke has left Fox News  to join the Vatican as a senior adviser of communications to the secretariat of state at the Holy See, the Vatican announced late Sunday.

"This new figure will have the task of dealing with communications issues in the work of the secretariat of state and will oversee relations with the Holy See Press Office and other media institutions of the Holy See," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in a statement.

Burke has been based in Rome as a journalist for more than two decades, first as a correspondent for the National Catholic Register, then as a stringer and correspondent for Time magazine before he moved to Fox News in 2001.

"While I don’t think I'll have power, I think I'll be at the table with people who do," Burke said from Rome on Monday.

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Burke's office will not be in the press office at the Holy See.  He will be based on the third floor of the Apostolic Palace just below Secretariat of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Italian cleric who overseas the day-to-day operation of the Vatican.

Burke equated the newly created job to being the director of communications at the White House, noting he won't be out front delivering the message for the church. "This is more the strategy, the shape-the-message, formulate-the-message, and then try to figure out how best to transmit it."

News of his departure trickled out on Saturday when The Associated Press released a report about Burke's move.

By Monday morning, Fox News had scrubbed Burke's reporter profile from their website and by Monday afternoon, a member of their public relations team told CNN that Burke was "no longer a Fox employee."

When he spoke to CNN, Burke had been under the assumption he was still a Fox employee until Friday.

"It's really the best move the Vatican has made in a long time," long-time Vatican reporter David Gibson of the Religion News Service said of Burke's hiring. "But whether it's going to be enough, I don't know - they've got a lot of problems internally with their communications strategy and also presentation."

"You don't get any closer than being in the Apostolic Palace on the third floor right under the secretariat of state," Gibson said. "But again, is anybody going to be listening to them? That's also the other part of this equation."

The Vatican has been in crisis mode for weeks after an embarrassing series of leaks dubbed "Vati-leaks," in which sensitive documents were published in a book by an Italian journalist.

In April, a "pontifical mandate" was given to uncover the source of hundreds of personal letters and confidential documents that leaked to Gianluigi Nuzzi, an Italian journalist and author of "Sua Santita," a book that translates to "His Holiness" and included the documents, some of which were thought to have come off the pope's desk.

Paolo Gabriele, the pope's butler, was arrested in May, accused of  leaking documents.

While the scandal received only mild interest in the United States, it captivated Italy for weeks.

"I think the fact that they brought me in is a realization that everything is not perfect," Burke said. "If you go over the past few years, the pope himself has said, ' we made some mistakes.' "

Burke said in the course of a week, he was approached about the job twice.

Burke, 52, is a lifelong Catholic from St. Louis.  One of six children, he grew up walking to Mass and attended Catholic school from elementary through high school. He said he was convinced his father bought the house he grew up in because of its proximity to the local parish.

Between high school and heading off to college at Columbia University in Manhattan, Burke became a numerary in Opus Dei.

It meant committing to a life of singleness and celibacy.  He formalized his commitment at  23, something he said was "like getting married."

Opus Dei is a religious order founded in 1928 and made up of roughly 90,000 members, the vast majority of whom are lay people. They say their "mission is to spread the ideal of holiness in the middle of the world," according to their website.

Some members of Opus Dei practice self-flagellation, a practice of beating or whipping oneself to grow closer to Jesus.

"This voluntarily accepted discomfort is a way of joining oneself to Jesus Christ and the sufferings he voluntarily accepted in order to redeem us from sin," the Rev. Michael Barrett, a priest of the Catholic Opus Dei, wrote on the group's website in 2006. Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa both used the spiritual practice.

Burke says self-flagellation is part of his personal practice as well, saying "I try to."

For Burke, being a member of Opus Dei is a key component of his spirituality, he said.

"It's a big part of who I am," he said.

His membership in Opus Dei will be beneficial to Burke when he begins next week at the Vatican, Gibson said.

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"Opus Dei is very trusted in the Vatican and in this pontificate," Gibson said, adding that Pope John Paul II was also a member. "They're not the shadowy, villainous organization that Dan Brown depicted in his novels like 'Angels and Demons' and 'The Da Vinci Code.' They know what they're doing."

John Allen, CNN Vatican analyst, says that by hiring Burke, the Vatican is "trying to reclaim some of that John Paul II magic."

"I think collectively the Vatican feels it has taken a drubbing in the court of public opinion, and it's looking for a media-savvy expert that can turn the ship around," Allen said.

"I would say the Vatican is in a better position today than it was yesterday with respect to its media strategy with the hiring of Greg Burke, but ultimately how much change he's going to be able to effect remains to be seen."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Pope Benedict XVI • Vatican

soundoff (248 Responses)
  1. George H

    I gather, from all news sources, that Greg Burke is a closeted gay man. Is this correct? Reports are that he is
    single, member of Opus Dei, living in an all male residence? Ya thunk.....

    June 28, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  2. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    June 28, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      June 28, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  3. PrimeNumber

    CNN writes a little article about the Vatican hiring a Fox newsman. This sets a lot of atheists (who for some reason come to a faith blog !) into motion making petty, mean spirited, sarcastic, and unsubstantial comments. It never fails to work. One hopes they are not this way in their every day lives. Being so easy to manipulate, though, you could sell them anything. Write us another one, CNN. The atheists are fun to watch.

    June 27, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • Peter

      Well, its just too rich! The scandal ridden Catholics turn to the scandal ridden NewsCorp for image control. It sounds like a marriage made in, err ahhh, Heaven! By the way I am from an Irish American family and was raised a Catholic.

      June 30, 2012 at 7:09 am |
  4. Everett Wallace

    good let's see the evil behind the vatican.

    June 27, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
  5. Jack

    Good evening. Everyone is invited to visit – thestarofkaduri.com

    June 27, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  6. Ron B

    .Let's see... leave a TV network with no morals or interest in the truth to join a religious group of old men who wear dresses all day and have no interest in morals or the truth.... sounds like an even trade...

    June 27, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  7. mkodrel

    Religious mumbo jumbo

    June 27, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  8. howart Dao

    GREAT move by the Churd: hire a Fox to guard the fox den :-)

    June 26, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  9. Sam Yaza

    hehehehe good my brother now go gather and learn all you can the world needs you so do not let the system compromise you

    June 26, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  10. nowayjesus212

    Church: Sorry for raping boys. Here's a Fox 'news' reporter to make it all better.

    June 26, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  11. Drew

    Why does god's vicar on earth need a PR guy?

    June 26, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • I Don't Get It

      Drew,

      Why does god need a vicar on Earth?

      June 26, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Drew

      A great question

      June 26, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • howart Dao

      Now that the vicar is no longer infallible, he will need a FALL guy :-)

      June 26, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  12. AGuest9

    From one organization based on falsehoods to another.

    June 26, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Nick

      Exactly what I was thinking.

      June 26, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  13. Atheist Hunter

    Just sharing…
    prolapsed.net

    June 26, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  14. kindness

    A thought to consider without an ego response

    Accept Jesus christ as your lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Transcend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.

    The key is be present and transcend our own desire to physically see evidence. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.

    Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle. Were all sinners. Knowing that we are is often an issue. But both christians and non are sinners.

    We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Follow me".
    It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .

    Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
    See the truth...
    do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from som other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancsend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find any truth you can take with you ....in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life..... You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf.... the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed..... your good deeds will be forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated..... your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over . This is truth .

    Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent.... Repent means knowing (to change) The Holy spirit (within) will convict you beyond what you think you can do by yourself. Grace is given to those who renounce the world. That are" in" the world but not "of " the world.

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible . Ask Jesus in faith for dicernment and start reading the new testament... You will be shocked when you lay down your preconceived notions and ....see and hear truth ... see how christ sets an example ... feel the truth....

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth in Christ.

    Sell all your cleverness and purchase true bewilderment. You don't get what you want ....you get what you are in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
    You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it

    You're all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
    I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime . Don't wait till you are about to die.. START PUTTING YOUR TREASURES WHERE THEY REALLY MATTER >
    Its awsome and It's just between you and Jesus

    my testimony

    Romans 10:9

    "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved

    June 26, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      You threaten me with eternal torture unless I believe in your delusion for which you have NO evidence?

      FVCK YOU!

      June 26, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Joep199

      If it's just between me and Jesus, we'd really appreciate keeping your nose out of our business.

      June 26, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • JWT

      There are some great meds to get rid of those imaginary yet so tantilizingly real spirits.

      June 27, 2012 at 7:56 am |
    • Bill

      Call me when your shuttle lands.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • phillykarl

      Isn't it amazing that EVERY religion in the world has INCONTROVERTIBLE evidence that theirs is the RIGHT one? And that all others are WRONG? Simply amazing.

      June 27, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Everett Wallace

      takes no confession best TRUST in GOD and go forward.

      June 27, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.