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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. Charlie in Maine

    Wow I think that may illustrate how "out of touch" they are. You are accused of lying and being too conservative so you hire a a Faux News reporter as your"PR" person?

    June 26, 2012 at 8:02 am |
  2. Aeromechanic

    C'mon now, you DIDN'T see something like this coming? The Vatican knows they can count on someone from FoxNews to spin the story exactly how they want it spun. They aren't concerned with the truth.

    June 26, 2012 at 7:57 am |
  3. ELH

    Let's not fix our problems, let's just hire a spin-meister.

    June 26, 2012 at 7:52 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Democrats and Republicans have been doing it for years.

      June 26, 2012 at 7:57 am |
  4. Using God

    A match made in heaven

    June 26, 2012 at 7:47 am |
  5. LeeCMH

    A Fox News reporting working for the Vatican? Fair and Balanced?

    June 26, 2012 at 7:45 am |
  6. bvilleyellowdog

    Perfect fit. Faux Noise to faux fairy tales. Both big on perversion too.

    June 26, 2012 at 7:39 am |
  7. riamb60

    The Vatican needs an expert to spread "faux news "

    June 26, 2012 at 7:34 am |
  8. prophet

    these people have harmed so many people but we must also realise that the followers of this religion probably 80 percent are just as bad as the religion they belong to. Thinhgs tend to find their own level.

    June 26, 2012 at 7:10 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I'd severely doubt that 80% of Catholics are as bad as the Catholic hierarchy. Most are just normal, gullible people who, through fear and tradition, feel the need to believe in a higher power, with Catholicism being the default choice, as about 99.99% of those people grew up Catholic. Obviously, it's fun to mock their stupidity, but I wouldn't say most of them are bad people like their church's hierarchy.

      June 26, 2012 at 7:37 am |
    • JM

      Oh wow, So about 900 million people are evil because you say so? And this is because they are Catholic? I'm sure you FEEL you are better than the rest of humanity, but you'll forgive me for not buying that idea.

      June 26, 2012 at 8:00 am |
  9. AaronT3

    Fox and The Vatican walk into a bar, The Vatican says: I've washed away a lot of woes in the bottles on these shelves. Fox says no need to worry my child for I'm your hail Mary☻

    June 26, 2012 at 7:07 am |
  10. prophet

    this shows that the vatican individuals know that they are not able to deceive anymore and are desparately trying to make an image as in the altered photo of Mr Rat Zinger on the vatican website to make him look similar to the pope that people liked so this shows their inferiority in most matters.

    June 26, 2012 at 7:05 am |
    • JM

      Pope Benedict is an amazing theologist and writer. I'm sure you've read at least a dozen of his works to get such an educated opinion on him. You wouldn't be saying otherwise if you hadn't, Right? That would be like saying you are basing your opinion on hearsay and little more.

      June 26, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • sam stone

      JM: Isn't the whole relligion based on hearsay?

      June 26, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • JM

      @ Sam Stone, I don't think this is going to go anywhere, but I'll bite and remind you that the four Gospels were written by eye-witnesses, hardly hearsay I'd say.

      June 26, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  11. prophet

    why don't thye give the money to the poor instead of paying this pathetic individual this amount of money. The vatican again proving that they don't follow Gods Laws. They really are such hypocrites and someone from fox news is ideal for this.

    The vatican are bad people, we can say the vatican but the vatican are the individuals who hide behind the vatican but these individulas are responsible for the evil that is the vatican.

    June 26, 2012 at 6:55 am |
  12. Kebos

    FOX news and then a post at the Vatican. Yeah, that sounds about right.

    June 26, 2012 at 6:44 am |
    • Rick

      They're made for each other......the molester and the liar.

      June 26, 2012 at 7:19 am |
    • Charlie in Maine

      Yeah "far right"

      June 26, 2012 at 8:03 am |
  13. Shimon Cleopas

    BREAKING NEWS: .666 Formula

    1.Failure by presidents, prime ministers and kings to win in sacred wars, issues and debates indicates pope’s fundamental failure to capture the 2 big fish – God and Satan.

    2.The 9/11 attacks, shoe bombs, device implants, etc are the result of false preaching that America/Israel is the big/small Satan. Capturing the real Satan secures America, the Middle East and the whole world.

    3.Just like a flat-center-of-universe earth, Vatican and the Evangelicals are headed in the opposite direction and therefore will never catch the big fish Jesus Christ.

    4.Breaking News: The formula that calcu-locates 666 with up to 31 decimal places accuracy, ergo with CAD precision, has been discovered.

    5.Just like “vicarius filii dei”, this newly discovered formula also supports the statement “get behind me Satan you are an obstacle to me.”

    6.Note that “behind” is the opposite of “anti” indicating that 666 is the Antichrist obstructing the view to the real Jesus Christ.

    7.To enjoy this shock and awe discovery, start program “calculator”. In a Conclave, a cardinal that gets two thirds majority vote wins the name pope.

    8.In your calculator: enter the formula of two thirds majority vote as follows: 2 / 3 and VOILA! .666 remains after truncating the tail.

    9.Unlike “vicarious filii dei” which was immediately erased from the miter after its 666 sum discovery, the two-thirds majority vote formula is retrievable from calculators.

    10.Even more holy ground breaking news: The Bible Code that redeems St Peter’s Square also retakes Jerusalem, Tora Bora and the White House. (Oh-la-la!)

    11.To trigger the Bible Code into a “big bang”, Jesus Christ must undergo A SCIENTIFIC RETRIAL in Wash DC on or before Dec 21, 2012.

    June 26, 2012 at 6:35 am |
    • Kebos

      I think it's time for you to jump off that ledge.

      June 26, 2012 at 6:43 am |
    • Jerry

      If you honestly believe that this post make any sense at all, you need to hit reset on your life, go back to elementary school, and start the process of learning what life is all about... or pehaps just run to a mental health expert and beg for help. Good luck!

      June 26, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • sam stone

      Shimon: Jesus is waiting. Do you have tall buildings where you live?

      June 26, 2012 at 8:31 am |
  14. Shimon Cleopas

    Fox in Sheep's Clothing

    1.Who still needs Vatican when a scientist can present the two fish, God and Satan, in digital crystal-clear LCD HD quality.

    2.There is a catch: TRUTH (Jesus Christ) must undergo A FAIR SCIENTIFIC RETRIAL under the Lady of Freedom in Capitol Hill, Washington, DC any day not necessarily on December 21, 2012.

    3.The SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE that Jesus Christ is indeed God obliterates Satan, ends The Great Tribulation and reinvents Vatican, Jerusalem, Tora Bora and the White House.

    4.Jesus once said to Peter: “Get behind me Satan. You are an obstacle to me.” Note Jesus use of the word “behind” which is the opposite of “ante” or “anti” as in Antichrist.

    5.The tangible evidence that Jesus Christ is indeed God eliminates Vatican, the obstacle to the Second Coming.

    June 26, 2012 at 6:29 am |
  15. SHAME

    Trust a FOX news reporter to be hired by the sneakiest, ugliest, richest, dirtiest organisation in the whole world! How to turn the priests into victims of the child molestation scandals all over the world? = ask a FOX reporter to think of something.

    June 26, 2012 at 5:49 am |
  16. Howard of Alexandria

    Interesting. The Vatican feels it needs someone to help shape its message.

    Whatever happened to just telling the truth? Of course, the RCC hasn't been in the truth telling business for several centuries, so I suppose that's expecting a bit too much.

    June 26, 2012 at 3:56 am |
  17. Valentijn

    Smart move – hiring someone already trained in making things up and pretending it's true.

    June 26, 2012 at 3:54 am |
  18. Briddy

    There is an interesting news clipping – an article by Mr. Burke about relgious women (US and Canadian), May 21, 1994 – the Lakeland Leger... which makes one wonder if he likes relgious women or respoects them. Perhaps he could make a public statement – on record.

    June 26, 2012 at 3:30 am |
  19. Honest

    It's not about how to best sell it to the public .... a cunning and devious organization does NOT reflect God's standards and will eventually be judged: Psalm 7 verses 8 and 9
    and
    will be destroyed: Revelation chapter 17 and 18

    June 26, 2012 at 2:39 am |
  20. watash

    The head child molester needs a lying two bit excuse maker to help him hide all the skeletons in his closets. Then the master of cover up himself Rupert Murdoch will cover all the expenses that they incur in court.

    June 26, 2012 at 2:15 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.