Removal of US cardinal from Vatican post, part of Pope's Curia shakeup

(Photo: REUTERS / Stefano Rellandini)Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke leads a Holy Mass in the chapel of the Vatican Governorate to mark the opening of the Judicial Year of the Tribunal of Vatican City at the Vatican, January 11, 2014.

Pope Francis′ recent series of appointments looks to be a prelude to the complete reshaping of the curia, the Vatican's administrative body, including the shifting of conservative U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke.

Burke was removed as the head of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's Supreme Court the Holy See announced November 8. He will now be the cardinal patron of the Knights and Dames of Malta.

French Moroccan Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, currently the Pope's foreign minister will take Burke's position at the Vatican's highest court.

Francis named British Archbishop Paul Gallagher as the Vatican's secretary for Relations with States, replacing Mamberti as the top Holy See diplomat.

"Each move reveals more about Pope Francis' vision for the Church," Catholic News Agency reported.

Gallagher is a long-standing diplomat, who has served the Council of Europe and as the papal ambassador, or nuncio, to Burundi and Guatemala.

Most recently he was serving as nuncio to Australia. He is considered an astute, open-minded and humble worker.

"He has also been chosen because of his ability to fulfill the new diplomatic criteria: Church diplomats under Pope Francis are being urged to reduce the distance between themselves and mainstream society, engaging the secular world more in conversation," CNA commented.

The Vatican did not give a reason for the 66-year-old Cardinal Burke's reassignment.

The Catholic News Service noted it is unusual for a pope to remove an official from a position such as the one held by Burke without assigning him to similar responsibilities.

Church law states that cardinals in Vatican can continue holding office for several years even after resignation.


A few years ago, Cardinal Burke found himself in the headlines because of his conservative stance on many social issues.

The Washington Post detailed some of the cardinal's decisions in the past.

In 2004, Burke said he would refuse to give communion to Senator John Kerry, who said he supports the right of women to choose to have an abortion if they wish.

In 2007, he resigned from the board of a Catholic hospital after it invited pro-choice singer Sheryl Crow to perform in a benefit concert. In 2009, Burke made a controversial remark after the University of Notre Dame gave President Barack Obama an honorary degree.

Cardinal Burke has made then news again as he seems to remain "out of step with the current pontificate."

In October, he told a Spanish journalist that many Catholics "feel a bit of seasickness, because it seems to them that the ship of the church has lost its compass," referring to the Pope's liberal take on social issues.

Church scholar James Hitchcock told the Washington Post in 2007, "Archbishop Burke is one bishop who has chosen to confront them directly, as opposed to other bishops who may prefer to minimize them."

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