Pope Francis has appointed an American, Mr. Greg Burke, as the new Vatican spokesman, replacing Jesuit Fr. Frederico Lombardi, who has retired at the age of 73 after 10 years in the position. Mr. Burke was brought to the Vatican Press Office four years ago as a consultant to help resolve the “Vatileaks” scandal which was then coming to a head.
Burke is a member of Opus Dei and is only the second layman to hold the position. The other layman was Dr. Joaquín Navarro-Valls, a Spaniard who was also a member of Opus Dei. Before coming to the Vatican, Mr. Burke worked for Fox News and the National Catholic Reporter. Mr. Burke received his degree from Columbia University in New York, majoring in Journalism.
At the time of the announcement of Burke’s appointment, it was also revealed that his assistant would be Ms. Paoloma Garcia Ovejero, a Spanish radio reporter who served as the Vatican correspondent for her radio station. She is the first woman to hold any senior position in the Vatican Press Office.
The August earthquake, which had its epicenter in the small town of Amatrice, Italy and killed some 300 of the town’s inhabitants, also caused serious damage to the town of Norcia, the birthplace of St. Benedict, as well as to the Benedictine Monastery located there. The monastery, whose prior is Fr. Cassian Folsom, an American, opened the doors in Norcia on December 2, 2000 after receiving approval from the Benedictine Order and the Holy See the previous year. In 2009, the monastery was especially assigned the apostolate of offering the Traditional Mass along with the Novus Ordo. In order to support themselves, the monks began brewing and selling Birra Norcia (Beer of Norcia) and have recently begun selling their brew in the United States.
Word coming from the monks immediately following the earthquake was that all of them were safe and sound, but that the monastery and the adjoining church suffered structural damage that will take some time and significant expense to repair. More information about the monastery can be found at the monks website: en.nursia.com