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Fr Federico Lombardi to stay Vatican spokesman, but retires as head of radio station

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi (AP)

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi will retire as head of Vatican Radio on February 29, as the Secretariat for Communications takes on the general administration of the radio station.

Giacomo Ghisani, an Italian layman and vice-general director of the secretariat, will be the “ad interim” administrative director and legal representative of Vatican Radio starting on March 1. Ghisani had been director of international relations and legal affairs at Vatican Radio for many years.

Fr Lombardi, 73, will still head the Vatican press office for the time being and continue serving as Vatican spokesman. The personnel changes were announced by the Vatican on Monday.

Born in northern Italy near Turin in 1942, Fr Lombardi was named programme director of Vatican Radio in 1990 and general director of the Vatican television centre, CTV, in 2001.

During the reorganisation of Vatican offices under Benedict XVI, Fr Lombardi was appointed general director of the radio in 2005 and head of the Vatican press office in 2006, while continuing to lead CTV. Before his retirement in 2013, Benedict named Mgr Dario Vigano the new director of CTV.

In an effort to render the Vatican’s communications efforts more effective, Pope Francis established in 2015 a new Secretariat for Communications with the aim of co-ordinating and streamlining the Holy See’s multiple communications outlets. Mgr Vigano leads the secretariat as prefect and still directs CTV.

The Vatican press office said in a statement that the management and administration of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and the press office had already been merged as of January 1.

The timeline for Vatican media reforms foresees Vatican Radio and CTV — which already have been collaborating for years — to completely merge within 2016, it said.

Also retiring at the end of the month is Alberto Gasbarri, the radio’s administrative director and the chief planner of papal trips. In view of the media reform, no executive managers will be appointed to take Fr Lombardi’s and Gasbarri’s places at the radio, the communique said.

Instead, the responsibilities for both positions — administrative and general director of the radio — will be taken care of by the vice-general director of the communications’ secretariat, Ghisani.

Gasbarri’s responsibilities for organising papal trips abroad will be assumed by Mgr Mauricio Rueda Beltz, a 46-year-old Colombian priest, who works in the Vatican Secretariat of State.

Nine Vatican media operations will be gradually integrated over the next few years while protecting people’s jobs, the Vatican has said.

The nine offices to be “incorporated” are the Pontifical Council for Social Communications; the Vatican press office; the Vatican Internet office; Vatican Radio; the Vatican television production studio, CTV; the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano; the Vatican printing press; the Vatican photograph service, and the Vatican publishing house, Libreria Editrice Vaticana.