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Pope Francis reportedly takes Vatican apartment, salary from Cardinal Burke

Cardinal Raymond Burke at EWTN’s studio in Rome during the canonization of St. John Paul II and St. John XXIII. / Credit: Steven Driscoll/CNA

Vatican City, Nov 28, 2023 / 13:34 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has stripped one of his top American critics, Cardinal Raymond Burke, of his Vatican housing and salary privileges, the Associated Press is reporting.

According to the AP report, which is based on conversations with two anonymous sources briefed on the measures, the pope discussed his planned actions against the American prelate at a Nov. 20 meeting of Vatican office heads.

The pope reportedly said that Burke was a source of “disunity” in the Church and that he was using the privileges afforded to retired cardinals against the Church.

The Italian Catholic news blog La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana first reported pending actions against Burke on Nov. 27.

“Cardinal Burke is my enemy, so I take away his apartment and his salary,” the pope had said at the Nov. 20 meeting, according to Bussola’s undisclosed Vatican source.

CNA was unable to immediately reach Burke to confirm the measures against him. The Vatican’s communications office did not respond to EWTN’s request for comment by time of publication.

The AP reported that the Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, “referred questions to Burke.”

“I don’t have anything particular to say about that,” Bruni told reporters.

Burke was ordained a priest by Pope Paul VI in Rome in 1975 and was bishop of La Crosse, Wisconsin, from 1995 to 2004 and archbishop of St. Louis from 2004 to 2008. Widely regarded as an expert in canon law, Burke was appointed in 2008 as prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (the highest judicial authority in the Church) by Pope Benedict XVI. Two years later, Benedict made him a cardinal. 

Pope Francis removed him from the post of prefect in 2014 and instead appointed him cardinal patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a mostly ceremonial role dedicated to the spiritual welfare of the members of the order. He remained patron until this year but had held only the title, having been reportedly restricted from active involvement since 2016 and thus sidelined during the extensive institutional reforms of the order over the last years. In June, Pope Francis named Cardinal Gianfranco Ghirlanda, SJ, as Burke’s official replacement. At the time of the announcement, Burke was only a few days away from the customary retirement age for bishops of 75.

Burke has emerged as a strong critic of some of Pope Francis’ initiatives.

He was one of the five cardinals who sent a “dubia” to Pope Francis asking for clarification on the Church’s position on doctrinal development, the blessing of same-sex unions, the authority of the Synod on Synodality, women’s ordination, and sacramental absolution. 

The document was made public on the eve of the opening of the Synod on Synodality at the Vatican and discussed at an Oct. 2 press conference in which Burke took part and expressed his concerns about the synod.

“It is unfortunately very clear that the invocation of the Holy Spirit by some has for its purpose the advancement of an agenda that is more political and human than ecclesial and divine,” Burke said.

This would not be the first former curial official this year asked to leave his Vatican living quarters.

According to a German newspaper report in June, Pope Francis ordered Archbishop Georg Gänswein to leave the Vatican and return to Germany. Gänswein, a longtime secretary to Pope Benedict XVI, served as prefect of the Papal Household to both Benedict and his successor, Pope Francis, until February 2020. Gänswein’s departure from the Vatican following the death of Benedict and subsequent dismissal by Pope Francis was seen by some as a fall from grace.

According to the German media report, Pope Francis in his comments on the decision “referred to the custom that the former private secretaries of deceased popes did not remain in Rome.”

Like Burke, Gänswein, 66, is without portfolio.

This is a developing story.

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