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VATICAN CITY (CBSMiami/AP) — Pope Francis has named an American to head the Vatican’s office for family and laity. It’s a move meant to bring a more pastoral bent to the Vatican’s bureaucracy.

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Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell, a former Legion of Christ priest whose brother is also a top Vatican official, becomes one of the highest-ranking Americans at the Holy See.

Francis appointed the Irish-born Farrell on Wednesday as he formally created the new Dicastery for the Laity, Families and Life, which combines several Vatican offices into one. The reform is part of Francis’ bigger overhaul of the Vatican bureaucracy to make it more efficient and reflects the pope’s focus on better ministering to Catholic families and laity.

In a related appointment Wednesday, Francis named the former head of the Vatican’s office for family matters, Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, to lead the Vatican’s bioethics think tank and marriage institute.

Combined, the appointments signal a more moderate direction for Vatican offices responsible for hot-button, culture war issues such as life and marriage.

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Paglia, for example, is a moderate Italian who was responsible for investigating and pushing through the beatification of El Salvador Archbishop Oscar Romero over opposition from Latin American conservatives who accused him of Marxist sympathies.

The two institutes which Paglia now heads, the Pontifical Academy for Life and the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, were both created during the pontificate of St. John Paul II to emphasize defense of traditional church teaching opposing abortion, artificial contraception and other life issues.

In a statement on the Dallas diocesan website — written in both English and Spanish in a reflection of Farrell’s Latino flock — Farrell said he was humbled by the unexpected appointment and was leaving his home of 10 years with mixed emotions. Farrell, a tweeting and blogging 68-year-old, said he looked forward to promoting the laity and family in accordance with Francis’ recent teaching document on family life, “The Joy of Love.”

The document has been controversial because it opened the door for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion.

Farrell and his brother, Brian, were both ordained as priests of the Legion of Christ religious order. Kevin Farrell left the scandal-marred order in the early 1980s and incardinated into the Archdiocese of Washington. Brian Farrell remains a Legion priest and is the No. 2 in the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

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