Christina White reports on moves to renew Cardinal MurphyO'Connor's public image THE HEAD Of the Catholic Church in England and Wales has a new press secretary to handle relations with the media.
Stephen Noon's appointment as private press secretary to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor comes after unprecedented interest in the Archbishop of Westminster.
His appointment was described as "urgent, to meet both the demands of press interest, and to have more control over it".
Mr Noon, 32, comes from a political and media background. He worked previously with Alex Salmond MP, leader of the Scottish National Party. and John Swinney MP, in both the House of Commons and the Scottish Parliament.
In December 2002 a media frenzy accompanied renewed allegations over the Cardinal's handling of the Fr Michael Hill case when he was Bishop of Arundel and Brighton. Michael Hill was later convicted of sexual abuse. Allegations of negligence by the Cardinal were unproved.
There was criticism of the way the BBC, in particular, reported the case and criticism also of the way the Cardinal's office was left reacting to events.
The director of the Catholic Communications Service denied rumours that the crisis had forced the Cardinal's office to consider bringing in a public relations agency to handle the press.
Mark Morley said: "To say there hasn't been any contact with PR agencies would be untruthful but that's completely different to hiring someone.
"Agencies are always pitching for business, this is what they do, and softpitches will undoubtedly have been made."
He said the controversy that had enveloped the Church last year had made it the perfect target for agencies touting for business. "The Catholic Church was viewed, mistakenly, as a big rich organisation that was in trouble. That's simply not the case."
Mr Noon said two-thirds of his work would be as Director of Diocesan Communications for Westminster. His role as private press secretary will complement the work of Tim Livesey, Spokesman for Public Affairs.
" It has been a fascinating two weeks with plenty of opportunities for working with a very energetic and enthusiastic team across the Diocese. I'm looking forward to working with the Cardinal," Mr Noon said.