Pope Francis names first American, first woman as his No. 1 and No. 2 spokespeople

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Pope Francis on Monday overhauled the staff that presents the public face of the Vatican, naming a former Fox and Time correspondent from St. Louis as his personal spokesman and director of the Vatican press office — the first American to hold that position. The pope also appointed a Spanish journalist to the second-in-command spot, the highest spot a woman has held in the church’s communications power structure.

Greg Burke, 56, will replace the Rev. Federico Lombardi, an Italian Jesuit who for 10 years has dealt with various papal dramas with a refined but distant style. Father Lombardi, 73, was director of the Vatican press office for a decade and head of the huge Vatican Radio — the Church’s largest communications arm — from 1991 until last February.

Paloma Garcia Ovejero, the new deputy Vatican spokeswoman, is the first woman to ever hold that role, according to the National Catholic Register. Ms. Garcia, 40, was the Rome and Vatican correspondent for the Spanish broadcaster COPE, according to the U.S. Catholic site Crux.

The entire Vatican communications operation has been in a state of flux for several years as it attempts to shift from a slow, massive bureaucracy that operates largely in Italian and shuts down in the early afternoon (Rome time, of course) to a fast-moving, 24-hour, global outreach machine. The Vatican has to balance being a city-state, a worldwide evangelistic effort and a modern communications body that can take advantage of the celebrity newsmaker currently at its helm.

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