(German Cardinal Reinhard Marx at the Vatican March 4, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi)

Germany’s Catholic bishops elected Munich Cardinal Reinhard Marx their new leader on Wednesday, picking a close associate of Pope Francis already working on Vatican reform to also guide them at home.

Marx’s election in Germany, one of the richest and most influential national churches in the 1.2-billion-strong Roman Catholic world, enhanced his status among the men the pope has called on to help him revitalize the Catholic Church.

Known in Germany as a spokesman for social and economic justice, he gave his 2008 book on a just world economy the title “Das Kapital” in a tongue-in-cheek reference to the magnum opus of Karl Marx, the German founder of communism.

Marx is one of the eight cardinals Francis picked last year for a “kitchen cabinet” to advise him on reforming the Vatican and the world church. Last Saturday, the pope also named him head of a new Vatican Council for the Economy.

Franz Josef Jung, religious affairs expert for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, called him “an organizer who is not afraid of discussion about the future of the Church.”