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Vatican appoints new media adviser

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Greg Burke has been appointed a senior communications adviser in the Vatican (AP)

Greg Burke has been appointed a senior communications adviser in the Vatican (AP)

Greg Burke has been appointed a senior communications adviser in the Vatican (AP)

The Vatican has brought in the Fox News correspondent in Rome to help improve its communications strategy as it tries to cope with years of communications blunders and one of its most serious scandals in decades, officials said.

Greg Burke, 52, will leave Fox to become the senior communications adviser in the Vatican's secretariat of state.

"I'm a bit nervous but very excited. Let's just say it's a challenge," Burke said.

He defined his job, which he said he had been offered twice before, as being along the lines of the White House senior communications adviser: "You're shaping the message, you're moulding the message, and you're trying to make sure everyone remains on-message. And that's tough."

Burke, of St Louis, Missouri, is a member of the conservative Opus Dei movement. Pope John Paul II's long-serving spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, was also a member of Opus Dei and was known for the papal access he enjoyed and his ability to craft the messages John Paul wanted to get out.

After Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005, Navarro-Valls was replaced by the Rev Federico Lombardi, a Jesuit who had long headed Vatican Radio and still does, along with running the Vatican press office and Vatican television service.

Lombardi said Burke will help integrate communications issues within the Vatican's top administrative office, the secretariat of state, and will help handle its relations with the Holy See press office and other Vatican communications offices. Burke will report to the Vatican under-secretary of state and the official who oversees Vatican communications in the secretariat.

The Vatican has been bedevilled by communications blunders ever since Benedict's 2005 election, and is currently dealing with a scandal over Vatican documents that were leaked to Italian journalists. While the scandal is serious - Benedict himself convened a special meeting of cardinals today to try to cope with it - the Vatican's communications problems long predate it.

Benedict's now-infamous speech about Muslims and violence, his 2009 decision to rehabilitate a schismatic bishop who denied the Holocaust, and the Vatican's response to the 2010 explosion of the sex abuse scandal are just a few of the blunders that have tarnished Benedict's papacy.

Burke acknowledged the difficult task ahead but said that after turning down the Vatican twice before, he went with his gut and accepted the third time around. "This is an opportunity and challenge that I'm not going to get again," he said.

PA