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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. Charles

    Well, they sure went to the right place if they're looking to smoke screen the truth.

    June 25, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • NativeBornUSA

      That would be true if he left to go work for the Obama white house............

      June 25, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • Religion? Get real...

      Native – The lies coming from the Obama White House don't even come close to comparing to the lies that have come out of the Catholic Church... And they've been doing it for centuries.

      June 25, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • Rush

      No Native...it's just that working for pedophiles is actually a step up for him.

      June 25, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
  2. Larry Craig

    The Vatican, the Republican party, Jehovah witnesses, Islam, fox news: they are all cults with an evil agenda!

    June 25, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • NativeBornUSA

      Are you seriously that stupid? One in six hospitals in the US are catholic, they teach a large percentage of our brightests students they are the number one Christian denomination in the USA. As far as your assertions they are pure simple biggotry. What do you think of Obama's Rev Write church? The anti American anti White church? If that aint a cult the word doesn't exist. Bottom line, catholics were one of Obamas top independant voter in 08, in this election year he will lose both the Catholic and regular Christian vote, Jewish vote en masse. And why? Because of biggots like you.......

      June 25, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • derp

      "What do you think of Obama's Rev Write church"

      It's Reverend Wright.

      "And why? Because of biggots like you......."

      It's bigots.

      June 26, 2012 at 9:07 am |
  3. joe

    Just keep up with the anti-Catholic bigoted remarks. There's an election coming up, Catholics vote, and so far, you, the News Media, and the anti-Catholic administration, are really turning Catholics off. Why should we vote for people who project hatred and Catholic bigotry?

    June 25, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • Dan

      Most Catholics do not actually feel "oppressed" because they are sane, well-balanced people

      June 25, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • What a fraud...

      If setting policy based on freedom is anti-Catholic, that should tell you something about your religion... Maybe it's time for you to grow up.

      June 25, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • Kyle

      I was raised and confirmed Catholic; a more appalling group of people I have never encountered. My kids will not be allowed anywhere near those moral cowards and stunning hypocrites.

      June 25, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • Mello

      I feel sorry for your kids Kyle.

      June 26, 2012 at 3:40 am |
    • derp

      "I was raised and confirmed Catholic; a more appalling group of people I have never encountered. My kids will not be allowed anywhere near those moral cowards and stunning hypocrites"

      I have raised two happy well adjusted children without any help or influence from the dress wearing ped ophi les in silly hats. My children are far better off for it.

      June 26, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • adam l

      Read Revelations. I wouldn't be surprised if the Catholics took it out of their Bible. They're the Church that is drunk with the blood of the saints, those who would not recant their belief, they killed MILLIONS in the inquisition. The Catholic Church is like a person who has sinned. Murdered, worships a false idol (the pope) has people ask priests for forgiveness instead of jesus, who instead of being a humble church wears scarlet and gold and incense of all kinds. READ REVELATIONS

      June 26, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  4. What a fraud...

    Burke committed himself to a life of 'Singleness and celibacy'... In other words, he's another closeted Catholic. Big surprise.

    June 25, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • derp

      "Burke committed himself to a life of 'Singleness and celibacy"

      That's because no woman would fvck him.

      June 26, 2012 at 9:10 am |
  5. bam

    total joke.... but hey liars like to hang together... after a month they will be blaming obama for the priests feasting on boys

    June 25, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • NativeBornUSA

      Liars hang together right you are one need only look at the non transparent fast and furiously solyndra Obama white house and dems in general.......line for the koolaid your messiah is calling you.

      June 25, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • Robear in Ojai

      Hey NativeBornUSA, if memory (which you seem to lack) serves me well, Fast & Furious was approved by G. W. Bush AND stopped by Obama...

      June 25, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  6. allens

    the church goes on showing who and what they are. out of touch and evil

    June 25, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • NativeBornUSA

      you must of meant to say Obama white house or democrats vs church..............ya that must be what you were saying.

      June 25, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
  7. Citizen of Earth

    The catholic church and fox are both one hell of a hot mess. Remember folks religion is man made.

    June 25, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  8. SSampson

    HAHAHA – This is TOO funny – nothing to say though.... everybody already thinks the same thing....

    June 25, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
  9. gosh

    Not suprised

    June 25, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  10. Dave

    When you need professional liars to take a group of evil people and make them look good – Fox News is the best for the job!

    June 25, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • allenwoll

      Indeed !

      This move epitomizes the arrogance of the Catholic Church ! ! !

      June 25, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • Reality Checker

      Hard to disagree with this statement.

      June 26, 2012 at 12:23 am |
  11. Maria Carvalho

    Perfect choice. If you need a master of misinformation, look no farther than fox News. Incidentally, it would be interesting to ask
    this Opus Day defender why they treat women like second class citizens. Their view of the world is male, rich and powerful.

    June 25, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  12. joey

    so does this mean he is working on the sandusky appeal ?

    June 25, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • Nomad

      The Vatican is opening a new Mission for Paedophiles

      June 25, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • Steve

      Sandusky is a Methodist. But hey, don't let the facts stop you from some good ol fashion bigotry of Catholic bashing.

      June 25, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • derp

      "don't let the facts stop you from some good ol fashion bigotry of Catholic bashing"

      We don't need to bash catholics. They do a fine job of it themselves without our help.

      June 26, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  13. Dan

    Why would the man supposedly closest to God need a Faux-news spin doctor? Something doesn't quite add up

    June 25, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • LinCA

      He probably couldn't get anyone from a reputable network.

      June 25, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • Nomad

      Because the Pope is closer to the Devil than to God!

      June 25, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Nomad

      The Vatican is the entrance to Hell.

      June 25, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • Dan

      The Pope isn't evil exactly, he's just a very ordinary human being with a very serious PR problem

      June 25, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  14. Jimmy G.

    Just goes to show you what sort of priorities this guy has.

    June 25, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  15. Logan Waters

    A Fox "reporter".

    Perfect. No doubt his first job will be to amplify the lie that the "fortnight" has something to do with religious freedom, and is not designed to elect more conservative Republicans to office.

    This would be really, really hilarious, if it weren't really, really sad.

    June 25, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  16. sam

    This is an excellent fit. Having worked for Fox, nothing will surprise him there.

    June 25, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  17. Goebbels changes coats

    From being Der Fox Minister of Right-Wingnut Propaganda to being Der Vatican't Minister of God-Mafia Propaganda.

    Not a big leap actually.

    June 25, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • PrimeNumber

      Goebbels changes coats is wearing no clothes.

      June 25, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Goebbels changes coats

      Not when I wrote that, but it sounded like such a good idea that I flung off all my clothes and now am only wearing fishnet stockings, black leather motorcycle gloves, and a big ole sombrero. Let your imagination run wild, Primey! Catholic priests do!

      June 25, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  18. junior

    CNN has an uncanny way of setting bait.

    June 25, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • Dan

      You have a point, but the Vatican also has an uncanny way of covering things up

      June 25, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • R U Kidding

      So some dude changed jobs. People change jobs everyday. It is not news.

      June 25, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  19. derp

    Just when you though it was not possible for a "reporter" to stoop any lower than FOX news, he goes to work for the catholic church.

    Great, a "communications" guy for Pope Adulf Skrewinboiz.

    How do these people sleep at night?

    June 25, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  20. Jimmy G.

    Instead of doing the right thing, they seek to divert attention from their criminal organization's back orifice to their front organization filled with disobedient nuns and adulterous school teachers to brighten up their "image" refusing to see, like any other dictators or totalitarians, that their actions are transparent to the world and that they just need to distract everyone from the bodies everywhere.

    June 25, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Reality Checker

      Another rational assessment of the situation. Damage control and PR image is very important to continue the propaganda campaign used to brainwash and control the masses.

      June 26, 2012 at 12:29 am |
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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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.