VATICAN CITY β€”The Vatican spokesman, Greg Burke, and his deputy resigned abruptly Monday amid an overhaul of the Vatican’s communications operations and a crisis period in Pope Francis’ papacy.

The departures of Burke and his deputy, Paloma Garcia Ovejero, signaled that the problems associated with Francis’ reform of the Vatican bureaucracy had come to a head, and at a very bad time: The pope is struggling to address a global sex abuse and cover-up scandal that threatens his own legacy.

Francis nevertheless accepted the resignations, which take effect Tuesday, the Vatican said in a statement. He named a longtime member of the Vatican’s communications operations, Alessandro Gisotti, as an interim replacement for Burke.

“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 tweeted. “New Year, New Adventures.”

Burke stressed that he and his deputy prayed about the decision “for months and we’re very much at peace with it.” Both thanked the pope.

“One stage is ending. Thank you for these two and a half years,” Garcia tweeted.

The pope recently overhauled the Vatican’s media operations for the second time by ousting the longtime editor of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, and naming a new director of editorial content for all Vatican media, Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli.

Burke’s statement on Twitter that the immediate resignations were months in the making suggested they were not over the recent appointments but a reflection of more deep-seated institutional problems.

The resignations appeared to take the new team by surprise, although the job of Vatican spokesman is notoriously difficult given the feudal nature of the Vatican, its reflexive tendency toward secrecy and the occasional skepticism of journalists.

The head of Vatican communications, Paolo Ruffini, said he respected Burke and Garcia’s decision. He praised their professionalism and said he had full confidence in Gisotti, who was a longtime journalist with Vatican Radio and more recently worked as the Vatican’s head of social media.

“The year ahead is full of important appointments that will require maximum communications efforts,” Ruffini said in a statement.

The comment might have referred to a high-stakes summit on preventing clergy sex abuse that Francis convened for February, as well as the pope’s foreign trips planned for 2019: Panama, United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Bulgaria and Macedonia in the first half of the year, and rumored trips to Madagascar and Japan in the second half.

Francis still faces continued fallout from the clergy abuse scandal, in Chile, the United States and beyond. The next year will likely see the outcome of a canonical investigation of ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who has been accused of sexually abusing minors and adult seminarians in the U.S.