Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Meet the New Portavoce

So you heard here yesterday that Joaquin Navarro-Valls' days at the Sala Stampa were winding down....

This morning, the Pope indeed accepted Navarro-Valls' retirement as director of the Holy See Press Office, naming in his stead not the rumoured laywoman, but the current director of Vatican Radio, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi.

That was quick. And half a heads-up is better than none, right?

The new papal spokesman, shown here at left in a 2001 photo, turns 64 next month. He entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Torino in 1960 and was ordained a priest in 1972 while studying for his licentiate in Theology at the Jesuit faculty of St Georgen in Frankfurt. Lombardi served as the Society's Italian Provincial from 1984-90, director of programming for Vatican Radio from 1991-2005 and last year became director-general of Vatican Radio, where he was charged with slimming the broadcaster's considerable costs.

The new director released a letter this morning to the accredited journalists of the Holy See Press Corps. Here it is in Whispers translation.
Dearest ones,

As I prepare myself to assume this new role in the Press Office of the Holy See, I’m naturally grateful to the Holy Father and the superiors [i.e. Information Office] for the trust they have placed in me, but I think also in particular – with sympathy – of you and of all those in the work of information who you are called to serve.

For some time I have worked, as have you, that the work of the Holy Father and the realities of the Church may be known and understood in an objective and adequate manner.

Dr Navarro-Valls has given his long service in this field with capacity, intelligence and exceptional dedication. We are all profoundly grateful and continue to count on his friendship.

I cannot pretend to imitate him, but you can count on the pledge to which I dedicate myself, with my limits but with all my available strength, to serve the Holy Father and your own good work. I know I can count on the collaboration which certainly will be generously offered – to me as to you – by all the personnel of the Press Office, beginning with the Vice Director, our friend Fr Ciro Benedittini.

I also ask of you your good will, so that this common goal of our path will be more fruitful.
I entrust to the Lord these sentiments on the liturgical remembrance of St Benedict, on which, perhaps not coincidentally, I receive the charge of this new service.

Cordially yours,
Federico Lombardi, SJ

In his own statement released through the Press Office, Navarro-Valls thanked the Pope "for accepting my readiness, manifested many times, to leave the office of Director of the Press Office of the Holy See after a long number of years.

"I am aware of having received in these years more than I ever could have been able to give and may I eventually be able to fully comprehend all of it," the departing director said.

PHOTO: AP/Plinio Lepri