Cardinal Raymond Burke

Cardinal Raymond Burke

November 17, 2014

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis removed U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, 66, as head of the Vatican's highest court and named him to a largely ceremonial post for a chivalric religious order.

Burke, formerly prefect of the Apostolic Signature, will now serve as cardinal patron of the Knights and Dames of Malta, the Vatican announced Nov. 8.

The move had been widely expected since an Italian journalist reported it in September, and the cardinal himself confirmed it to reporters the following month.

It is highly unusual for a pope to remove an official of Burke's stature and age without assigning him comparable responsibilities elsewhere.

As usual, the Vatican did not give a reason for the cardinal's reassignment.

A prominent devotee of the traditional liturgy and outspoken defender of traditional doctrine on controversial moral issues, Burke had appeared increasingly out of step with the current pontificate.

In December 2013, Pope Francis did not reappoint him to his position on the Congregation for Bishops, which advises the pope on episcopal appointments.

After Pope Francis invited German Cardinal Walter Kasper to address the world's cardinals in February, Burke emerged as a leading opponent of Kasper's proposal to make it easier for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion.


During the Oct. 5-19 Synod of Bishops on the family, Burke was one of the most vocal critics of a midterm report that used remarkably conciliatory language toward people with ways of life contrary to Catholic teaching, including those in same-sex unions and other non-marital relationships.

Burke made the news again late in October when 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."