ROME – On Dec 31, the Vatican announced that papal spokespersons Greg Burke and Paloma Garcia Ovejero have resigned – a move that comes just over two years after their 2016 appointments, and just weeks after two other key personnel changes in the Vatican’s communications operation.
Taking the reins in the interim will be Alessandro Gisotti, until now Coordinator of Social Media for the Vatican office for communications and a longtime veteran of Vatican Radio.
Both Burke and Garcia Ovejero made Vatican history with they stepped on board as the Director and Vice Director, respectively, of the Holy See Press Office in August 2016, marking the first time the papal spokespersons were both non-clergy, and included a woman.
Burke, a former Time magazine and Fox News correspondent, had been appointed deputy of the Vatican’s press office in late December 2015 and moved into the job last February, making him first in line to replace former papal spokesman, Italian Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the former director of Vatican Radio, who retired in 2016.
Garcia Ovejero studied journalism in Madrid’s Complutense University and in 2006 obtained a specialization in Management Strategies and Communication at New York University. In 1998 she began working at the Spanish broadcaster Cope, ad eventually moved to Rome in September 2012.
In a Dec. 31 statement coinciding with the announcement of Burke and Garcia Ovejero’s resignations, Italian layman Paolo Ruffini, head of the Vatican communication’s office, voiced appreciation “for their professionalism, their humanity and their faith.”
Ruffini, appointed in July of this year, described Burke and Garcia Ovejero’s resignations as their “autonomous and free choice,” and thanked them “for the dedication with which they’ve performed their work.”
In his own statement, Gisotti said he will seek “to fulfill the office given to me to the best of my abilities with the spirit of service to the Church and to the pope which I have the privilege to learn by being next to Father Federico Lombardi for almost 20 years.”
The resignations come after a tumultuous year for Vatican communications following the March 21 resignation of former Vatican communications-head, Monsignor Dario Vigano, after misrepresenting a letter penned by retired Pope Benedict XVI and doctoring a photo of it.
Francis then tapped Ruffini for the position, and on Dec. 18 Ruffini named Andrea Tornielli, Vatican reporter for Turin daily La Stampa and a longtime analyst for Italian site “Vatican Insider” as the new editorial director for the Dicastery of Communications, a new position responsible for coordinating the Vatican’s editorial operations.
Along with Tornielli’s appointment, Ruffini also named Italian writer and professor Andrea Monda as the new editor of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, replacing Giovanni Maria Vian, a church historian and journalist who headed the daily since 2007.