The Vatican has hired an American journalist as its senior communications adviser amidst the latest scandal to mar Pope Benedict XVI's papacy.
Greg Burke has worked as Fox News' Rome correspondent since 2001. He previously was in the same role for Time magazine, and he has covered the death of Pope John Paul II, the election of Benedict, and the Vatican pedophilia scandal.
Burke is a practicing Catholic and a member of the conservative Opus Dei movement.
In his new role, which he said he turned down twice before accepting, Burke will help to shape the Holy See's message and integrate communications between the Secretariat of State and Vatican media outlets, including Vatican Radio and the newspaper L'Osservatore Romano. He will not replace the official Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, but he will speak to reporters on background.
Burke said he will attempt to “modernize” the Vatican's communications strategy, though he won't have the authority to make official decisions.
“Anything that can show an openness and willingness to meet the press is a step in the right direction,” he told The Daily Beast. “I am going to have no power, but I certainly will be at the table with people who do have power.”
Burke's hiring comes as the Vatican tries to contain the “Vatileaks” scandal, which has engulfed the Italian media and eroded trust in the church. The pope's butler was arrested in May in connection with the leaking of private documents alleging corruption and conspiracy among cardinals.
Lombardi has struggled to repair the church's image following Vatileaks and other scandals during Benedict's papacy. He holds sporadic press briefings, during which he often blames the media for inaccurate reporting, a tactic used by other high-ranking Vatican officials as well.
Burke has emphasized transparency when describing his communications strategy. Still, because he will work mostly behind the scenes, his ability to help the Vatican's reputation might be restricted.
“I don't have an answer for you on how I'd stop the train, but I'd try,” he told The New York Times.