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Pope Francis taps an American as spokesman in communications shakeup

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ROME — In moves that clearly seem to afford English-speaking communications officials in the Vatican greater influence and visibility, Pope Francis has named two key aides to new roles, including putting the first American in line eventually to serve as his personal spokesman.

On Monday, the Vatican announced that Greg Burke, a former Time magazine and Fox News correspondent in Rome who has served as senior communications adviser to the Secretariat of State since 2012, has been named the new vice director of the Holy See Press Office.

Although the announcement did not say so explicitly, it’s believed that the appointment sets Burke up as heir apparent to the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the 73-year-old Jesuit who’s headed the press office and acted as spokesman for both Popes Benedict XVI and Francis since 2006.

Burke replaces the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, an Italian Passionist priest who has served as the vice-director of the Press Office since 1995. The appointment takes effect Feb. 1.

Two days earlier, the Vatican announced that the Rev. Paul Tighe, previously the No. 2 official at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, had been named to a new role as an “adjunct secretary” at the Pontifical Council for Culture under Italian Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi.

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