Pope Francis has named Dublin-born Cardinal Kevin Farrell as the new "Camerlengo", the prelate who runs the Vatican between the death or resignation of a pontiff and the election of a new one.

The 71-year-old cardinal, who was in born in Drimnagh and is the highest-ranking American in the Vatican, succeeds the French cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who died in July.

The Camerlengo, or chamberlain, runs the ordinary affairs of the Vatican city-state during the period known as the "sedevacante" (empty seat).

Cardinal Farrell became widely known in Ireland when Pope Francis gave him responsibility for organising the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, which was the occasion of the pontiff’s visit to Ireland last August.

At that time Cardinal Farrell, whose brother Archbishop Brian Farrell is also a senior member of the Vatican administration, was promoted by the current Pope to lead the Dicastery – or department - for the Laity, Family and Life.

On leaving school in 1966, he entered the controversial Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, studied in Salamanca and Rome and was ordained a priest in 1978.

In 1984, he left the Legionaries of Christ and was incardinated in the archdiocese of Washington DC, meaning he came under the authority of the archbishop in the capital of the United States.

Pope John Paul II appointed him auxiliary - or assistant - bishop of Washington in 2001, where he became vicar general under Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

In 2007 Pope Benedict XVI appointed him bishop of Dallas.

Last summer, when Cardinal McCarrick became the first cardinal in a century to be sacked, Cardinal Farrell said he was shocked by reports that his former boss had sexually molested seminarians.

McCarrick was found by a church investigation to have sexually abused an altar boy while a priest in New York.