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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. AZ Wildcat

    Perfect, the liars hired a liar... What a shock.

    June 25, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
  2. Fifi

    Very fitting since Fox news is able to brainwash millions of people everyday into their propaganda....And Vatican is another propaganda machine...

    June 25, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
  3. Bootyfunk

    lie for the republicans, lie for the vatican... don't see much of a difference.

    June 25, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  4. Good News!

    I'm not Catholic, but obviously, the trolls have come out to attack the Catholics unmercifully as well as make, pointed personal attacks on the correspondent who got the job. You sound bitter and jealous. Which you undoubtedly are.

    June 25, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Mirror Mirror

      So you attacked the attackers, make pointed personal attacks at the people who make pointed personal attacks. You sound bitter and jealous about the people who sound bitter and jealous . . . and you feel self righteous about being what you despise. Interesting.

      June 25, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • sam stone

      Poor, poor Catholics. My heart bleeds for them

      June 26, 2012 at 5:00 am |
  5. shinden58

    I am surprised the Vatican didn't hire Jerry Sandusky. I heard he was looking for a job and would feel at home in the like minded Vatican.

    June 25, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • Fred Flintstone

      He was certainly priest material. Truly a man of many talents.

      June 25, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
  6. Robear in Ojai

    The Holy See has obviously noticed how the spin doctors @ FOX can turn a pig's bladder into a silk purse. If there ever was doubt how deceitful the Vatican really is, here's the proof!

    "Shaping the message"? Give me a break!

    June 25, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
  7. Robear in Ojai

    "the Italian cleric who *overseas* the day-to-day operation of the Vatican"... C-N-N, where are the copy editors?

    It's "oversees", for those who still care about their English!

    June 25, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
  8. captain obvious

    Must be a pedophile

    June 25, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
  9. ﺶCHEﺶ

    NOW we know, the Vatican is Up-Front for Satan Lucifer.

    Now its FULL CONFIRMED!

    June 25, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
  10. jack

    He got his training in right wing propaganda at Fox, what better place to continue that propaganda than as a mouthpiece for the Roman church.

    June 25, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • paulm5545

      If he had turned the position down, they were going to ask Eric Holder...or Obama (they heard he walks on water).

      June 25, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Mama Mia!

      Fox just reported Donald Trumps put in his resume as well for the position but apparently was less qualified then Greg Burke for the job.

      June 25, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • Delusions 3:15

      Trump is straight.

      June 26, 2012 at 1:43 am |
  11. ron

    "This is more the strategy, the shape-the-message, formulate-the-message, and then try to figure out how best to transmit it." In other words, spin. They could try the truth. But not surprising the Vatican would hire him. Fox News, Opus Dei, the Vatican. It should all fit like a glove.

    June 25, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
  12. Father Mike

    Hey! Why didn't they hire John Allen, Jr., Senior Vatican Correspondent for CNN? He suffers from at least as much Stockholm Syndrome as Burke, but is a much better storyteller. His Asperger's Syndrome shouldn't disqualify him either, since an obsession with the inner workings of the Vatican is not unlike the myopic attention Asperger's patients give to their model trains. Choo! Choo!

    June 25, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • Delusions 3:15

      excellent analogy !

      June 26, 2012 at 1:44 am |
  13. Tom

    Unfair and unbalanced he should fit in real well in rome.

    June 25, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
  14. onestarman

    FOX NEWS and the VATICAN is a Marriage made somewhere.

    June 25, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      They BOTH work for their Master; Satan Lucifer.

      What a Shame!

      June 25, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • Delusions 3:15

      You need to read Elain Pagel's "The Origins of Satan". Satan is an ancient mythological figure common to many cultures.
      Please explain how Satan sinned, and got tossed "out" before space and time existed.
      Thank you Jesus.

      June 26, 2012 at 1:48 am |
  15. 1234LISA1234

    The Caatholic church of a ficticious caracter they called Jesus who has not done or said any of the stuff in the New Testament, according to the material uncovered by diligent researchers.Now is trying another wayto promote it's message.Most Religions do not know what the word God means. The first Commandment explains that there are many gods, and in many places the word is used to meen a forman, or a messenger for a particular activity. Scientific work had explained the existence of a level of consciousness that is is simultranuously everywhere that everything that exists is a part of.. A fluck of geese in flight is an example , every bird functions as a part of the whole fluck. There is no need for a maker, for a heaven, or for judgment, or for an eternity. There is only maintaining harmony with the fluck.

    June 25, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • Robear in Ojai

      it is spelled "flock"

      June 25, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
  16. MBSeattle

    Both Fox and the Vatican are have trouble with the truth. I am sure they will learn a few tricks.

    June 25, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
  17. MK

    Looks like the Vatican is in need of a serious media propaganda campaign. No better choice than FN talent for that.

    June 25, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
  18. robert

    No surprise. Distorting the truth, misinformation campaigns, lies and propaganda are central to both organisations. It is a natural progression. Perhaps the Vatican is not as fictional as Faux News but they are close.

    June 25, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
  19. Colin

    Just when I thought nobody could take a step down from Faux News....

    June 25, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
  20. jb-in-atl

    "This is more the strategy, the shape-the-message, formulate-the-message, and then try to figure out how best to transmit it."

    I would think after his years with faux news, "shaping" the message would be second nature

    June 25, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      Shape-the-message?

      A TRUE Message needs NOOOOOOOOOOO Shaping.

      It's as CLEAR as Day and Night. And that's how TRUE the Message exists in this World not by some lazy whittie old man with a tin foil tiny hat pitched on his head.

      June 25, 2012 at 11:08 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.