Vatican spokesman Greg Burke, deputy abruptly resign

Pope Francis accepts resignations

By ELIZA MACKINTOSH AND ANNECLAIRE STAPLETON, CNN
Massimo Sestini/Italian National Police via Getty Images

St. Peter's Square and Via della Conciliazione in Vatican City

(CNN) - Vatican spokesman Greg Burke and his deputy, Paloma Garcia Ovejero, have resigned, an official Vatican statement announced Monday.

The statement confirmed that Pope Francis accepted their resignations but did not provide more details about their abrupt exit.

Burke, an American, tweeted Monday that he and Ovejero, a Spaniard, had resigned effective January 1.

"At this time of transition in Vatican communications, we think it's best the Holy Father is completely free to assemble a new team," Burke said.

The former Fox News journalist, who joined the Vatican in 2012, described his experience as "fascinating, to say the least."

Francis appointed Alessandro Gisotti, a member of the Vatican's communications office, as interim director of the Holy See Press Office.

Their departure comes several weeks after Francis appointed Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli as editorial director of all Vatican media and Andrea Monda as editor of the Vatican newspaper, marking a significant shake up of the Vatican's media operations.

In a statement, Vatican communications head Paolo Ruffini thanked Burke and Ovejero. "Faced with what is their autonomous and free choice, I can only respect the decision they have made," Ruffini said, adding that "their significant commitment has contributed to the [Catholic Church's] path of reform."

The church has had a hellish year amid continued revelations of abuse and coverups, prominent resignations, and a former Vatican ambassador urging the Pope himself to step down. And the clergy sex abuse scandal shows no signs of abating into 2019, with a federal investigation and probes across the United States in the works.

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