VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Francis named a Brazilian journalist, Christiane Murray, as his deputy spokeswoman Thursday, in the latest important appointment boosting the presence and prestige of women at the Vatican.

Murray, 57, joined Vatican Radio in 1995 and since 2018 has been helping prepare for the Vatican's meeting of bishops on the Amazon scheduled for later this year. She replaces Paloma Garcia, who resigned Dec. 31, and joins the new Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni.

Her appointment follows Francis' historic decision this month to name seven women -- superiors of their religious congregations -- as members of the Vatican's congregation for religious orders, giving them a voice for the first time in Vatican matters directly affecting the lives of their sisters.

Women have long complained of a second-class status in the Catholic Church. Francis has vowed to boost their presence in Vatican decision-making roles while maintaining the church's ban on women priests.

In a statement, Murray thanked Francis "on behalf of myself and all of us, especially women," for having entrusted her with such an important position.

The head of the Vatican communications office, Paolo Ruffini, cited Murray's journalistic experience specializing in the church's missionary activity in explaining Francis' appointment.

"The choice of a woman who has roots in Brazil and an outlook to the world shows the desire to build a team that knows how to speak in the language of those who listen," Ruffini said.

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