Green Mile 22.
22s & 8(0) STRIKES AGAIN
Joaquin Navarro-Valls — a suave, silver-haired Spaniard who was a close confidant of Pope John Paul II and served for more than two decades as chief Vatican spokesman — has died at the age of 80.
Manuel Sanchez, spokesman for the Opus Dei movement in Rome, of which Navarro-Valls was a member, said he died Wednesday after a long illness.
Navarro-Valls was fiercely loyal to John Paul, accompanying the Polish pope on most of his 104 international trips. He also performed delicate diplomatic missions, such as helping to prepare the pope’s historic pilgrimage to Cuba.
Known for his coolness and restraint, Navarro-Valls nearly broke into tears when John Paul was dying in April 2005. He choked up and walked out of a conference room when a German reporter at a briefing on the pope’s condition asked him how he personally felt.
“I was trying to keep my emotions in check, but then a reporter asked how I was experiencing the passing of the pope personally, and I couldn’t control myself,” he explained later.
Navarro-Valls, who spoke four languages, was a foreign correspondent for the Spanish newspaper ABC when John Paul offered him the job as director of the Vatican press office. He was the first journalist to hold the post.
He was a lay member of the conservative Catholic movement Opus Dei, an order much favored by the pope, but Navarro-Valls always insisted the fact that he was president of Rome’s Foreign Press Assn. at the time weighed heavily in his hiring at the Vatican.
Navarro-Valls was credited with bringing computer technology to the press office, promoting the use of multiple languages in the Italian-centric press operation and giving journalists better access — making him the perfect press aide for a pope known for his media savvy.