Pope names top Franciscan in first Vatican appointment

VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Francis on Saturday appointed the leader of the main Franciscan order in his first nomination to the scandal-hit Vatican bureaucracy, the Holy See said in a statement, ahead of an expected overhaul of the administration.

Spain's Jose Rodriguez Carballo, 59, will be number two at the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, which oversees all Catholic religious orders.

The Vatican department is headed up by Brazilian cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz and is part of the Roman Curia - the Catholic Church administration, which analysts say is badly in need of reform.

Friar Carballo is minister general of the Order of Friars Minor, a post whose holder is regarded as the successor of founder St Francis of Assisi.

Friar Carballo, who comes from a poor family of Spanish farmers who emigrated to Germany, spoke to Rome Reports television news agency when he was re-elected minister general in 2009.

He said he had been inspired in his youth by a friar who was "simple and close to the people" and added that "this secular Europe needs Franciscan and evangelical values now more than ever".

The Argentine pope has told Catholics he named himself after St Francis because of the famous mediaeval Italian saint's dedication to alleviating poverty and promoting peace.

Pope Francis has called for a "poor Church for the poor" and has shown an informal style unusual in the Vatican although he is yet to begin tackling the major challenges facing the Church.

Vatican observers are eagerly awaiting other key nominations to top Curia posts expected in the coming days, which could provide vital insights into the new pope's intentions for the Church.

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