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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. Willie James

    Well now.... a "reporter" from the news organization with the least credibilty joins a medieval church....the reason this guy has to work outside journalism is he cannot get a job anywhere after working for Fox. This is a real situation for TV reporters that work for Fox, they have no crediblity and cannot get rehired.

    June 26, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  2. lance corporal

    learning from the republicans, when your actions and policies put you at odds with people don't change or fix anything just hire a whhore from fox to lie for you

    June 26, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Democrats do the exact same thing and don't kid yourself otherwise.

      June 26, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  3. New Gawker

    Makes perfect sense!! Fox is always skewing facts and outright lying to push the far right agenda and who better to lie to the public and to cover up vatican's indiscretions than a fox reporter!!

    June 26, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • Luch

      yes Fox learned from the best fact twisting organization in the world...CNN

      June 26, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • oldjewishlady

      Give it up Luch...Faux News is not a news channel, it's a propaganda channel and anyone with half a brain knows this...

      June 26, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  4. us_1776

    The Catholic Church supported the Nazis and it now turns to the Nazi Murdoch organization for help in honing its message of lies to its mindless sheep.

    .

    June 26, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • Luch

      supply from facts for your stupid hateful statement

      June 26, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  5. Atheist Hunter

    sharing..........
    http://savecalifornia.com/not-born-this-way.html

    June 26, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  6. papa

    I can't think of a better use for a former Fox reporter than going to work for another organization that is also built on lies, deception and fairy tales.

    June 26, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • KWBaraka

      Ouch.....guess you're not a fan of FauxNoise.......

      June 26, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • papa

      KW ... and I'm even less of a fan of the Catholic Church, the source of so much human pain, suffering and inequality over the centuries

      June 26, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • Luch

      than he would be working for CNN

      June 26, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  7. bxgrrl

    To Richard, who says "Liberals....undermine the whole structure [of the Church]. I assume that was sarcasm because the liberals left long ago.

    June 26, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  8. bxgrrl

    Oh, now the real story will come out. Right.

    June 26, 2012 at 9:30 am |
  9. WachetAuf

    It is too funny, just too funny. What a strange world. What a sense of humor God has. Do you think he is trying to tell us something? You know what they say, the medicien s easier to take when it is accompanied by a little honey.

    June 26, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      If God is trying to tell us anything, it's either he doesn't exist or he's a c.unt.

      June 26, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • jennygirl

      God has nothing to do with the vatican.

      June 26, 2012 at 9:35 am |
  10. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    LOL a match made in Heaven!

    June 26, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  11. dabble53

    A Faux news reporter and the RCC??? Now THAT's a believable combination. I'm sure I'll believe everything emanating from his mouth
    Agree with the other poster......tax the churches like the businesses they are.

    June 26, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  12. JIM MARCHAND

    the vatican hiring a fox news analyst INCREDIBLE, i am ashamed to be roman catholic. fox people are war mongering, unconcionable, anti-common people, pro big oil, big drugs, big military.
    the church needs a PR person who is going to reach out and communicate with the people of the world,extending the message of the Christ: peace, love, hope, brotherhood., not someone to protect their asses.

    June 26, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • Julie

      They can't do that because thats not what they're about!

      June 26, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • Richard

      You liberals are a pox on the Church. You undermine the whole stucture.

      June 26, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • JM

      Dear Jim,

      You claim to be a Catholic yet go as far as to say you are ashamed to be one because they hired a worker to do a job? I am by no means perfect, but I will tell you that if that's how much you value your religion, perhaps it's time to consider seeking spiritual help?

      TLDR: Grow up and try to be what you claim to be.

      June 26, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Religion is not healthy for children and other living things

      Richard – I agree that liberals just don't mesh with the Catholic Church's philosophy of bigotry, hatred and self-righteousness!

      June 26, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  13. Julie

    I think its time to tax the churches. They are operating like a business not a religious organization. TAX

    June 26, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Or it's time to abolish income and corporation tax. Income tax is theft.

      June 26, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  14. DaveM

    I grew up Catholic, but became disillusioned as a young adult, in part because of an abusive priest. As more of the Vatican is de-mystified in these modern times, the more I consider it a backwards and destructive organization. The Church is tainted by the politiziation of the American Catholic Church leaders. The recent mess with Catholic nuns is an embarassment and shows the Church to be a hiearchy of misogynist fools. The handling of the child abuse scandal was a travesty, pure and simple. As Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz was told to pay not attention to the man behind the curtain, when the curtain is pulled back on the Catholic Church, one does not see the work of God being done; instead, the greedy, power-hungry work of man is shown.

    June 26, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • Daniel B.

      Hey Judge: Remember to look in the mirror too, sometimes.

      June 26, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • think

      Most Roman Catholics are fine people. Why not allow Catholic Priests to marry?

      June 26, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • riamb60

      The Bible was written by men !!!

      June 26, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  15. giorgio serafini

    La teologia cattolica si muove su due direttive distinte:quella di applicare un egualitarismo economico, subito; e quella che invece rimanda la fraternità cristiana agli ultimi tempi,limitandosi alla solidarietà e sussidiarietà.

    June 26, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  16. joe dokes

    Moving from Fox News to The Vatican... wow, the most national transition in the world if you think about it.

    June 26, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • joe dokes

      Actually, a "natural" transition. Sorry about that.

      June 26, 2012 at 8:44 am |
  17. Kevin

    Ha – you people who see this is a significant story have fallen right into CNN's trap. Think about it: THIS is a top worldwide story?? Hmmm. Political agendas: Fox News has one and unquestionably, so does CNN. Those who bash Fox have to admit that it's a two-way street.

    America is in dire need of a BBC type news organization.

    June 26, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      The BBC is dull. In America, you have either a liberal bias or a conservative bias, which certainly has it's drawbacks. However, the BBC has become so afraid of offending anybody, they don't seem to take a stand on anything, and have placed severe limitations on their presenters' and shows' output. While the BBC is still a good service for news, anything that is opinion based or features discussion is either restricted and/or diluted to try and make it as least offensive as possible, making it bland in the process.

      June 26, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Daniel B.

      Agree! I go to the BBC to get solid news actually.

      June 26, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      @ Kevin
      That’s like comparing a pedoph!le(FOX) and a person(CNN) caught speeding 5mph over the limit. Lol

      @ Rational Libertarian
      A news organization ISN’T supposed to ‘stand for anything”. The ideal is unbiased.

      June 26, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      The BBC is a public broadcaster, not just a news organization. Their output beyond news has become tedious, and everything reeks of political correctness. The Evil Prince has infiltrated the BBC, making sure only the boring and bland will survive, only the lamest of lameness shall thrive.

      June 26, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • riamb60

      I get my news from all over the world , where there is no censorship .

      June 26, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  18. Kevin

    I love the Cathoic Church

    June 26, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • derp

      And if you are a little boy, they "love" you too.

      June 26, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  19. Rosslaw

    The Vatican-fair and balanced-you decide.

    June 26, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • Ryan M.

      At least as fair and balanced as you, right?

      June 26, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      How would you know if he is fair and balanced Ryan? Do you even know what those words mean?

      June 26, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • KWBaraka

      Ryan is a FauxNoise Acolyte.

      Oh.....wait!

      June 26, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  20. Johnson

    They certainly need the help given all the scandals regarding pedophile protectors, financial corruption, attack on nuns who work with the poor, denying poor women contraception. As a Catholic, I am ashamed of the Vatican and everyone in it.

    June 26, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Why not become a protestant.

      June 26, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • Daniel B.

      Then, why not go to that 'other' more perfect church.

      June 26, 2012 at 9:06 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.