VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who spent 22
years as director of the Vatican press office, died at home in Rome July 5 at
age 80 following a battle with pancreatic cancer.
The current director of the Vatican press office, Greg Burke,
announced his death in a tweet.
In a statement to Catholic News Service, Burke said he did
not always agree with Navarro-Valls, but his predecessor "always behaved
like a Christian gentleman — and those can be hard to find these days."
"Joaquin Navarro embodied what Ernest Hemingway defined
as courage: grace under pressure. I got to know Navarro when I was working for
Time, and the magazine named John Paul II Man of the Year. I expected to find a
man of faith, but I found a man of faith who was also a first-class
Burke said he remembered watching Navarro-Valls closely
during the 1994 U.N. International Conference on Population and Development in
Cairo, which Burke described as "one of the best examples of what Pope
Francis calls ideological colonization. It was fascinating to see someone who
was defending the faith, but he wasn't on the defensive. He was leading the
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, who succeeded Navarro-Valls
as Vatican press director beginning in 2006, remembered him as a "master
in the way he carried out his service."
"Navarro always remained a friend for me, an example of
discreet spiritual life, true and profound, fully integrated in his work, a
model of dedication at the service of the pope and the church, a master of
communications, although for me -- as I have already said, but repeat --
inimitable," Father Lombardi said in an editorial published July 6 on
Born in Cartagena, Spain, Nov. 16, 1936, Navarro-Valls joined
Opus Dei after meeting St. Josemaria Escriva.
He studied internal medicine and psychiatry before obtaining
degrees in journalism and communications sciences. He moved to Rome in 1970, where
he collaborated with the Opus Dei founder.
He became a correspondent for the Spanish newspaper ABC and
was elected twice as president of the Rome-based Foreign Press Association in
Italy before becoming the first lay journalist to become director of the
Vatican Press Office when he was appointed by St. John Paul II in 1984.
After leaving his post at the Vatican, he served as president
of the advisory board of the Opus Dei-affiliated Campus Biomedical University
in Rome until his death.
An author of books on the family and fluent in several
languages, Navarro-Valls often provided colorful, picturesque details
concerning St. 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 St. John Paul on almost all his apostolic
journeys and became a well-recognized figure, especially after the pope became
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.
According to the Opus Dei website, a wake was to be held at Rome's
Basilica of St. Eugene July 6. His funeral was to be presided by Msgr. Mariano
Fazio, vicar general of Opus Dei, July 7.