PUBLIC SECT0R: Cardinal seeks senior PRO to bolster image

Catholic leader Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor is attempting to bolster his image, which has been tarnished following a spate of paedophile priest scandals, by hiring his first full-time senior PRO.

It is understood that a shortlist of eight has now been drawn up to fill the role, which will handle strategic communications, day-to-day media relations and crisis management for the cardinal and his Westminster diocese.

The diocese, as with others in the church, has had its own PRO to handle local level media relations, however this post has been vacant in Westminster for around two years.

The creation of the role was recommended by Catholic Communications Service director of communications Mark Morley, who was appointed earlier this year to handle the cardinal's personal PR on a temporary basis, as well as his directorate duties, following the recent scandals (PRWeek, 10 January).

Morley said: 'When things have got hot, handling media for the cardinal has taken a lot of our resources.

'The creation of this role is a positive step... he (the cardinal) has taken a bold step.'

It is understood that a recommendation for a staff of two to three PROs to handle comms for the cardinal and his diocese was rejected, for financial reasons, in favour of one senior PR role.

It is expected the successful applicant will be recruited by the summer when Morley will return to solely handling his communications service director role.

Recent scandals have included accusations that the cardinal was involved in a cover up over the activities of convicted paedophile priest Michael Hill. The cardinal has denied the accusations.

The church has also now submitted a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission over a News of the World article concerning a meeting in Belmarsh Prison between auxillary Bishop of Southwark Howard Tripp and Hill (PRWeek, 31 January).

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