A year that began with the Holy Father performing a quick wedding on a plane in Chile ended with the Bride of Christ making an honest man out of longtime Vaticanista Andrea Tornielli.
Pope Francis appointed Tornielli “editorial director” for the Dicastery for Communication on December 18, from which post he will give editorial guidance to all of the Holy See’s media efforts. Under Francis’s pontificate, Tornielli has been less of a Vatican analyst and more of a spokesman. Greg Burke was the director of the Holy See Press Office, but Tornielli was the portavoce of the Casa Santa Marta. And what would the official spokesman do when the Holy Father’s confidant was charged with providing “editorial direction” to all Vatican communication?
Head for the exit, that’s what. In dramatic fashion, on New Year’s Eve, both Burke and press office vice-director Paloma Garcia Ovejero announced their resignations, effective New Year’s Day. In a tweet, Burke said both of them had been praying about departing for months, but the sudden joint resignation clearly indicates something had become urgently untenable.
When I was in Rome to cover the synod last October, I was surprised at how factional the thinking in the synod office—and in the Vatican communications offices—had become. They spoke openly not about critics on this or that issue, but about “enemies of the pope.” Entire networks and newspapers and news agencies, filled with professional, competent, and devoutly Catholic journalists, were denounced as lacking fidelity to the Church. That there will be tension between the principal figures of a pontificate and the media that covers it is to be expected; to encounter a mindset reminiscent of Nixon’s enemies list or the Trump administration was startling.
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