BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Pope Francis has appointed British-born Italian layman Matteo Bruni as the new director of the Holy See Press Office.
Interim spokesman Italian layman Alessandro Gisotti, the longtime Vatican Radio journalist who’d been on the job since the sudden resignation of American Greg Burke on Dec. 31, will continue to work for the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication.
“On 21 July my responsibility as ‘interim’ Director of the Holy See Press Office will conclude,” Gisotti told reporters in a statement. “I am grateful to the Holy Father for the privilege he gave me in being his spokesman during such an intense period of his Pontificate, and for now offering me the opportunity to continue in his service as Deputy Editorial Director of the Vatican’s media.”
In his new role, Gisotti will be the right-hand of Italian veteran journalist Andrea Tornielli, appointed as Editorial Director of the Vatican’s media operation last year.
The acceptance of Gisotti’s resignation had long been rumored in Rome, and he had always described it as a temporary position until a suitable replacement could be found.
“I thank the Pope, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, and the Superiors of the Secretariat of State for respecting my decision, communicated at the beginning of my mandate and later confirmed, that I would carry out this very important role for a limited time,” Gisotti said in his statement.
Bruni’s appointment was expected from Vatican watchers, but the person to fill the role of his deputy is proving harder to find. The pope wants a woman for the position.
According to Il Sismografo, a respected Rome-based Catholic news aggregator, several women have already rejected the position left vacant after Spaniard Paloma Garcia Ovejero announced her resignation at the same time as Burke.
Since St. John Paul II appointed layman Joaquin Navarro-Valls as Director of the Vatican’s press office, every director has been a journalist, including Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, who for decades was head of Vatican Radio.
Bruni — an Italian born in Winchester, England in 1976 — breaks with that tradition, as he has no previous experience as a journalist. However, he’s well-known and highly respected by the reporters who cover the Vatican daily and those who travel on the papal plane.
He began working at the Holy See’s Press Office in 2009, where he was tasked with coordinating the media accreditation section.
In 2016 he was appointed as coordinator of the Media Operations in addition to the accreditation section, which means he’s been the man tasked with coordinating the journalists traveling with the pope.
“In recent years, in my professional life, the relationship with the media has been rather intense,” Bruni said in an interview with Vatican News, an outlet of the Dicastery for Communication.
“Even from behind the scenes, I tried to make my work contribute to correct information, attempting to convey some of the main themes of the pontificate,” he said.
Bruni also said he interprets his new role in continuity with his previous one: “A communicator at the service of the Holy Father.”
He notes that in his new position he’s accompanied “by my wife’s support and my daughter’s affection, but also by his commitment to the “poor of the peripheries of Rome and the world, that I lived with the Community of Sant’Egidio since I was a high school student.”
“Today I am asked to take a step further and, by accepting to do it, I can only continue to work, at the service of the Pope and the Holy See, with my sensitivity, which remains that of a church for all, especially the poor,” he said.
In addition to Italian, Bruni also speaks English, Spanish and French.
Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma
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