Meet The Pope’s PR ‘Guru’

That Pope Francis is really something. He’s been a bouncer, a spy, a researcher, a damage control specialist and a living, breathing public relations case study who has so far been incredibly successful at improving his organization’s standing with the general public.

But what about the people behind him?

We missed the Vice and Daily Mail profiles of Vatican “marketing mastermind” Greg Burke last month, but the story is every bit as relevant and fascinating today.

A few facts about Burke:

    • He’s a devout Catholic (duh)
    • He’s a former journalist with Reuters, TIME and Fox News who “know[s] what journalists are looking for and what they need”
    • The Vatican hired him in July 2012 in a specific attempt to “help improve its relations with the media”
    • He’s a member of Opus Dei (Which is not a group of British S&M albinos out to stop Tom Hanks at all costs. Sorry, Dan Brown.)
    • His official title is “Senior Communications Advisor to the Vatican’s Secretariat of State”
    • He reports to Archbishop Angelo Becciu, number three in the Vatican hierarchy
    • He may have been responsible for Pope Benedict’s decision to start tweeting
    • He speaks Latin and shares some pretty cool Twitpics

He’s also got a good sense of pop culture humor:

Yes, he is quite literally “behind” Pontifex in that first pic. Why did the Vatican choose him as Pope Benedict’s tenure neared its end? In summer 2012 he told The Daily Beast that “I can bring a certain level of American practicality to the job”, meaning he’s the only person on the Vatican communications team with extensive English-language media experience. He’s also lived in Rome for some time and bears a deep knowledge of Italian culture and politics.

He hasn’t always been the church’s biggest cheerleader, either: as a reporter he covered the child abuse scandal, the “VatiLeaks” scandal and the “crackdown” on American nuns. He also turned the Vatican down not once but twice when they first offered him the job. A friend and fellow reporter asked whether Burke could “save the Vatican” more than a year ago, and we think you’ll agree the answer has been a resounding “yes.”

How responsible is he for Francis’ A+ image? We can’t be sure—he did clarify that he doesn’t write the Pope’s tweets because “He will tweet what he wants to tweet.”

The point is we are completely fascinated by this guy, and we think you should be too.

Wouldn’t you love to get a glimpse into his day-to-day?

(Photo via AFP/Getty Images/Catholic Exchange)

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.