ROME – In the latest move in the ongoing shakeup of Vatican communications, the pope’s top communications official has created four new positions for the Holy See Press Office, adding two Americans, a Peruvian and a Frenchwoman to the mix.
In a Jan. 11 communique, the Vatican’s communications office announced that Paolo Ruffini, who heads the department, has begun “a process to form a new organizational structure” of the press office following the Dec. 31 resignations of Greg Burke and Paloma Garcia Ovejero, director and vice director, respectively. When they were appointed in August 2016, it was the first time the papal spokespersons were both non-clergy, non-Italian, and included a woman.
In the interim, Alessandro Gisotti, who previously served as Coordinator of Social Media for the Vatican office for communications and is a longtime veteran of Vatican Radio, was tapped to take the reins.
Following the passing of the baton, Ruffini has created the position of a “Senior Advisor” to the director of the press office, naming Frenchwoman Romilda Ferrauto to the post.
Now retired, Ferrauto previously served as manager of the French section for Vatican Radio and was an assistant to the press office for the past five synods of bishops, assisting with French-language translations. She is also a member of a women’s association of Vatican employees pushing for greater inclusion of women in authoritative and decision-making roles.
In addition to Ferrauto, Ruffini also named two new assistants to the press office director, tapping American nun Sister Bernadette Reis, a journalist for Vatican News and a consultant for the Communication Commission of the International Union of Superiors General, and Peruvian Raul Cabrera Perez, who for years has worked at Vatican Radio and who has served as a collaborator for the information commission for the recent Synod of Bishops meeting on youth.
Ruffini also created an “Office Manager” position, entrusting the role to American layman Thaddeus Jones, who until now has been a member of the coordinating team for the Vatican News Portal Office, helping to oversee their online presence, and who was a member of the former Pontifical Council for Social Communication.
No new director or vice director of the press office was named in Friday’s announcement, and with the new assistant roles, it is unclear if the role of vice director will continue, or if the new “assistant to the director” positions will replace the previous structure.
Noteworthy among Ruffini’s appointments is not only the fact that they are all a mix of both men and women, consecrated and lay, but they are all non-native Italian speakers, filling the language gap left when Burke and Garcia Ovejero – native English and Spanish speakers – resigned.
However, with each of the appointees being long-time institutional insiders being tapped from within the Vatican’s media structure, there are questions as to exactly what impact they will have on the reform, and if true reform is attainable without an outsider’s perspective.