Pope Francis appoints Archbishop Pietro Parolin as his 'deputy'

The 58-year-old Italian will become the Holy See's Secretary of State

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The Independent Online

Pope Francis has named a new "deputy" in his most significant appointment to date, the Vatican announced yesterday.

Archbishop Pietro Parolin, a 58-year-old Italian and currently the Vatican's ambassador in Venezuela, will become the Holy See's Secretary of State.

The appointment marks the start of an overhaul of the Vatican government in the wake of the ethical and financial scandals that surrounded the previous Pope, Benedict XVI.

Archbishop Parolin replaces Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, 79, who is retiring. The Secretary of State assumes the role of the Vatican's head of government and is considered the most important figure after the Pope.

In a statement quoted by Vatican Radio, Archbishop Parolin said: "I feel very strongly the grace of this call, which is yet another and the latest of God's surprises in my life."

Pope Francis managed to steal the Archbishop's thunder when a photograph of the leader of the Catholic Church posing with young fans who had come to the Vatican went viral this weekend. The "selfie" picture was taken by one of the teenagers on a phone and posted on social media.