The Vatican has hired a Fox News correspondent to help improve the Catholic church’s media relations, Reuters reported Saturday.
Citing a church source, the news agency reported that Gerg Burke, a Fox correspondant for Europe and the Middle East and a member of the right-wing Catholic group Opus Dei, had been hired as a “senior communications advisor” to the Vatican’s political arm, the Secretariat of State. The Vatican has yet to formally announce Burke’s hiring, though the church official said they are expected to do so shortly.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Burke likened his role to that of a White House communications advisor, saying he would be responsible for defining and crafting a well-honed media strategy, and then ensuring that everyone within the Vatican stays on message.
Burke’s appointment is somewhat unusual in the cloistered world of the Vatican, as he will become the only member on the communications team with extensive reporting experience outside the realm of Catholic media.
The appointment comes after several years of public relations blunders by the Vatican. Back in 2006, Pope Benedict caused an uproar in the Muslim world after he, quoting an ancient Byzantine emperor, said that Islam was, “evil and inhuman.” Protesters damaged several churches before the Vatican scrambled together a half-apology. Then three years later, Benedict ended the excommunication of a Bishop who, it was later revealed, denied much of the Holocaust, setting off yet another PR disaster for the church.
As recently as this week, the Vatican was still struggling to deliver a coherent message. In interview snippets released Monday, the Vatican’s number two official, Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, accused the media of “imitating Dan Brown,” a reference to the author of “The DaVinci Code.” Bertone made that allusion while condemning reporters who’ve published leaked papal documents, saying those journalists were trying to create a false scandal in order to oust him.
Jon Terbush is a Boston-based writer whose work has appeared in Talking Points Memo, Business Insider, the New Haven Register, and elsewhere. He tweets about politics, cats, and baseball via @jonterbush.
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