Vatican City, Jul 13, 2016 / 06:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday the Vatican released the names of 16 people appointed by Pope Francis to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications, among whom is American religious freedom and prolife attorney Kim Daniels.

A graduate from Princeton University and the University of Chicago Law School, Daniels is an attorney whose practice is focused on religious freedom and prolife issues, and is also a lay consultant to the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty. She is the former spokesperson for the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, having served under both Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz. She is also a founder and director of Catholic Voices USA.

Announced in a July 13 communique from the Vatican, Daniels’ appointment came alongside that of 15 others, including six cardinals, seven bishops and two laypersons. The appointments come just two days after the announcement of a new director and vice-director of the Holy See Press Office, and signal Francis’ next step in his sweeping reform of Vatican communications.

Established June 27, 2015, the Secretariat for Communications is headed by Msgr. Dario Vigano and oversees all of the Vatican’s communications offices, including Vatican Radio, L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican Television Center, the Holy See Press Office, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the Vatican Typography, the Photograph Service and the Vatican Publishing House.

When Pope Francis began his reform of the Roman Curia in 2013 with the help of his council of nine adviser cardinals, one of the most immediate areas that needed attention were the Vatican communications operations. In order to map out what a possible reform of Vatican communications would look like, Francis established an international commission headed by British Lord Chris Patten to study the current process and provide suggestions. Upon completing its mandate, the commission provided a plan for reform largely centered on streamlining the various communications departments for better integration and unification.

Overseen by the Secretariat for Communications, the plan is currently being carried out over a 4-year period, and Francis’ newest appointments are part of the ongoing process.

In addition to Daniels, other new members of the secretariat include Cardinals Béchara Boutros Raï, Lebanese Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites; John Njue, Archbishop of Nairobi, Kenya; Chibly Langlois, Bishop of Les Cayes, Haiti; Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar; Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches and Beniamino Stella, Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy. Bishops appointed were: Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin; Gintaras Grušas, Archbishop of Vilnius, Lithuania; Marcello Semeraro, Bishop of Albano, Italy; Stanislas Lalanne, Bishop of Pontoise, France; Pierre Nguy√™n V?n Kham, Bishop of My Tho, Vietnam; Ginés Ramón García Beltrán, Bishop of Guadix, Spain and Nuno Brás da Silva Martins, Auxiliary Bishop of Lisbon, Portugal.

The other two laypersons nominated are Markus Sch√§chter, professor of ethics in the mass media and in society at the Faculty of Philosophy S.I. München, Germany, and Leticia Soberón Mainero, a psychologist and expert in communications who had already a consultant for the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.