Pope Francis has named Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, 71, the prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, to serve as the camerlengo or chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church.

Cardinal Farrell, born in Ireland, was incardinated in the Archdiocese of Washington and served there as a priest and auxiliary bishop before serving as bishop of Dallas from 2007 to 2016; as camerlengo, he fills the post left vacant by the death in July of French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.

While the pope is alive, the job is basically just a title. But when a pope dies or resigns, the chamberlain is charged with sealing the papal apartments, chairing consultations about the papal funeral, making the practical preparations for the conclave to elect the next pope, and chairing a committee of cardinals taking care of the ordinary affairs of the church until a new pope is elected.

The Vatican announced the appointment Feb. 14 along with the appointment of Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as a member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.