Vatican spokesman and his deputy resign

Burke (R) was named head of the Vatican press office in July, 2016 (AFP Photo/Gregorio BORGIA)

Vatican City (AFP) - The Vatican on Monday announced the resignations of its spokesman and his deputy, without giving any explanation.

Pope Francis "has accepted the resignation of the director and deputy director of the press office of the Vatican, Greg Burke and Paloma Garcia Ovejero, and named Alessandro Gisotti as acting director," it said in a statement.

American Burke, a member of the ultra-conservative and influential Opus Dei movement, was appointed in July 2016 after having been deputy spokesman.

In a series of tweets, Burke confirmed that he and Garcia Ovejero would step down on January 1.

"At this time of transition in Vatican communications, we think it's best the Holy Father is completely free to assemble a new team," Burke wrote Monday.

He said his "experience had been fascinating, to say the least".

The 59-year-old had previously worked as a journalist in Rome for the weekly National Catholic Reporter, for Time magazine and for the US television network Fox News.

He was the second Opus Dei member to hold the post after Spain's Joaquin Navarro Valls, the powerful head of communications for Pope John Paul II.

Garcia Ovejero, 43, a Spaniard, was the first woman to hold the number two post in the press office. She was previously Vatican correspondent for Spanish radio network Cadena COPE.

The resignations are the latest in a series of key staff changes within the pope's communications office, which also saw seasoned Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli appointed as editorial head earlier this month.