Vatican Spokesman and Deputy Abruptly Resign

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Posted: Dec 31, 2018 10:35 AM
Vatican Spokesman and Deputy Abruptly Resign

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke and his deputy, Paloma Garcia Ovejero, announced their sudden resignation Monday effective January 1st.

Burke announced the news on Twitter, writing, “at this time of transition in Vatican communications, we think it’s best the Holy Father is completely free to assemble a new team.”

He called his experience in the role “fascinating, to say the least.”

Burke, a former Fox TV correspondent in Rome, began to work for the Vatican in 2012 as a communications adviser for the Vatican's secretariat of state. He was named deputy spokesman in 2015 and became the spokesman in 2016 with Ovejero as his deputy. She was the first woman to have that role and was formerly the Vatican correspondent for the Cadena Cope.

Vatican communications head Paolo Ruffini thanked Burke and Ovejero in a statement.

"Faced with what is their autonomous and free choice, I can only respect the decision they have made," he said, "their significant commitment has contributed to the [Catholic Church's] path of reform."

Their resignations come two weeks after Pope Francis appointed Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli as editorial director for Vatican communications. Another Italian journalist, Alessandro Gisotti, will be named interim spokesperson, according to Reuters.

Burke and Ovejero gave no reason for their sudden resignations which come at a time of extreme turmoil for the Vatican as it grapples with the horrific sex abuse scandal involving former Cardinal McCarrick and the Pennsylvania grand jury report which uncovered the abuse of thousands of minors by 300 priests. There have also been subsequent allegations of sex abuse cover up including accusations that Pope Francis is mishandling the situation.

The allegations against McCarrick include that he molested a teenager over a period of years and even during the sacrament of confession. McCarrick has been removed from public ministry as the Vatican conducts their investigation.

The pope’s former apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, accused the pope of knowing about and ignoring sanctions placed on then-Cardinal McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI due to his sexual misconduct with adult seminarians.

Viganò stated in a bombshell letter in August that the pope did “not take into account the sanctions that Pope Benedict had imposed on" McCarrick and made him “his trusted counselor” who advised the appointment of many bishops in the United States, including Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Joseph Tobin of Newark. 

In response, The pope said he would not say a “single word” on the accusations and refused to even answer a question about when he first knew of McCarrick’s behavior. He told journalists to read Viganò’s letter and make their own conclusions.

During the sex abuse scandal in Chile earlier in the year, Pope Francis was forced to apologize for “errors in judgment” after calling accusations of cover-up against Bishop Juan Barros a “calumny” for years. He admitted to sex abuse survivors that he had been “part of the problem” in that instance. He accepted Barros’s resignation in June.