On December 31, 2018, Pope Francis accepted the resignations of Greg Burke and Paloma García Ovejero, respectively the director and the assistant director of the Press Office of the Holy See.
On December 18 he had set about making two important appointments within the Secretariat for Communications: the Vaticanist Andrea Tornielli had become the “editorial director” in charge of “coordinating” the Vatican media outlets, and the journalist Andrea Monda had become the head of L’Osservatore Romano which, with these changes, will from now on be completely integrated into the Secretariat for Communications. Several months earlier, in July, the Pope had already appointed a new Prefect for the dicastery, the Italian layman Paolo Ruffini. Pending the appointment of a new director of the Press Office, Francis designated Alessandro Gisotti, until now the coordinator of social networks for the dicastery, as ad interim director.
For the record: Greg Burke and Paloma García Ovejero had been appointed director and assistant director of the Press Office of the Holy See in July 2016. They succeeded Father Federico Lombardi, who had remained in the position for 10 years. He himself had replaced the Spaniard Joaquín Navarro-Valls, who was director of the Press Office between 1984 and 2006.
Commentary from Other Media:
On January 3, 2019, the Vaticanist Sandro Magister commented on these appointments, in an article headlined “Earthquake in the Vatican’s media”, revealing the conflicts of interests underlying all these changes.
The two fortresses—L’Osservatore Romano and the Press Office of the Holy See—which seemed impregnable, since they were under the control of the Secretariat of State, have just fallen one after the other under the control of the Secretariat for Communications, which now more than ever is in the hands of the most faithful supporters of Pope Francis.
Sandro Magister notes that since
December 20, in his first editorial, the new editor-in-chief, Andrea Monda, wrote that he wants to let a ‘pilgrim’ Church speak up. This is a typically Bergoglian adjective, right in line with the instructions given to Prefect Ruffini in his letter of appointment: to respond “to the call of Pope Francis to be an ‘outgoing Church’ and to ‘implement unprecedented processes’ especially in matters of communications.
But above all Sandro Magister reveals that
Monda has close ties with the editor of La Civiltà Cattolica, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, who is Pope Bergoglio’s great confidant and the éminence grise [confidential agent] behind all these maneuvers in the Vatican media”; and that on the chain of command Monda himself will report directly to Andrea Tornielli, “the Vaticanist closest to Bergoglio, since he was already his friend before he was elected Pope.
It goes without saying that all these changes will allow the new editorial team of Vatican communications to be the faithful echo of the current party line of the pontificate.
On December 27, the daily newspaper La Verità saw in this whole shake-up not so much an opposition between progressives and conservatives in Rome as an internal power struggle between “several roosters in the same henhouse” fighting for the honor of being the most officially unofficial interpreter of Francis’ thought. After this “settling of accounts” within the very close—but diverse—inner circle of the Pope, it is certain that the winners are Tornielli and Spadaro, who seem to have taken control of the whole set of Vatican media outlets.
In the January 2 issue of La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, Riccardo Cascioli recalls that already
for the last few years, those who really wanted to understand the Pope’s thought, his strategies, the meaning of certain gestures and of certain remarks of his, had above all to follow the writings of several ‘favorites’. Ranking first were Father Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civiltà Cattolica, and Andrea Tornielli, Vaticanist for La Stampa and coordinator of the website Vatican Insider.
He added this important explanation:
In light of what we have seen in recent years, under Tornielli’s direction, the editorial control will have a natural tendency to spread also toward the Press Office, which will be an unprecedented concentration of power. And since Tornielli has distinguished himself in recent years by dividing the Church into the good and the wicked, by identifying and targeting the supposed “enemies” of the Pope (all you need in order to join this club by right is to make a request for clarification—like the four Cardinals concerning Amoris laetitia), we can easily guess that the new communication of Vatican communications will mean, among other things, a no-holds-barred battle against those who have not adapted to the ‘new Church’.