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LOMBARDI-NAVARROVALLS Jul-11-2006 (590 words) With photos. xxxi

Pope accepts resignation of longtime Vatican spokesman, Navarro-Valls

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of longtime Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls July 11 and named Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi to replace him as head of the Vatican press office.

Navarro-Valls, who turns 70 in November, had asked to retire from his post after spending the past 22 years as director of what turned into one of the Vatican's most visible jobs.

The Spanish journalist and medical doctor said in a statement that he was pleased the pope had accepted his "oft-expressed readiness" to step down and that he felt he received much more than he had been able to give to his job over the years.

The appointment of 63-year-old Father Lombardi not only puts a religious journalist at the helm of the Vatican press office; it also marks another reorganization of Vatican offices under Pope Benedict.

The Italian Jesuit will remain as general director of Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Center as he heads the Vatican press office, thereby merging the leadership and coordination of these three media outlets.

In a statement, he thanked the pope and other Vatican officials "for the trust they place in me" and expressed appreciation for the work Navarro-Valls carried out with such "exceptional ability, intelligence and dedication."

In a written statement addressed to journalists accredited with the Vatican press office, Father Lombardi said they could count on him to dedicate himself, "within my limits but with all the power at my disposal, to serve the Holy Father and your good work."

"Like you, I have been working for some time to make sure the activity of the Holy Father and the church be known and objectively and adequately understood," he said.

The Italian Jesuit stopped by the press office just minutes before his appointment became official July 11 to informally meet journalists working in the press office and to answer questions about his background.

Fluent in Italian, German, French and what he described as passable English, Father Lombardi was born in northern Italy near Turin in 1942.

After he became a Jesuit priest in 1972, he worked for the influential Jesuit-run magazine, La Civilta Cattolica, and served as superior of the Jesuits' Italian province.

He was named program director of Vatican Radio in 1991 and was appointed general director of the radio in 2005 by Pope Benedict. He became general director of the Vatican television station, CTV, in 2001.

Navarro-Valls, who is a medical doctor by training, an author of books on the family and fluent in several languages, was appointed in 1984 by the most media-conscious pontiff in history, Pope John Paul II.

In naming Navarro-Valls his spokesman, Pope John Paul chose a professional lay journalist and a Spaniard who was also a member of the influential Catholic organization Opus Dei.

Navarro-Valls often provided colorful, picturesque details concerning Pope John Paul's activities and daily life. He also acted many times as an adviser to the pope on the media impact of papal decisions.

He traveled with the pope on almost all of his apostolic journeys and became a well-recognized figure especially when Pope John Paul fell ill in 2004. He regularly held press conferences to relay news to the world of the pope's deteriorating condition.

In 1992, Navarro-Valls overhauled the press office with a $2 million technological face-lift along with much needed, modernized facilities. He also revolutionized the distribution of material by making archives, documents and statistics concerning the pope's activity available online.


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