What did Cardinal Burke do? Pope Francis strips US prelate or Vatican privileges ahead of eviction 

Details about Cardinal Burke
Details about Cardinal Burke's dismissal revealed as Pope Francis evicts him out of his Vatican apartment. (Image via @JeremyTate41/X)

Pope Francis is evicting Cardinal Burke, a critic from the group of American conservatives. Cardinal Burke is known for opposing the Pope’s plans for reforming the Catholic Church, which reportedly led to him being evicted from his Vatican apartment and having his salary revoked.

In a meeting with the heads of Vatican offices last week, Pope Francis announced that he would be making the harsh move towards Burke as the Pope felt he was using the privileges against the church. During the meeting, he reportedly said that Burke was a source of “disunity” in the church.

While no such official announcement has been made yet, Reuters reported that a participant who was present in the meeting reported this happening on the condition of anonymity.

Cardinal Burke will be the second conservative American to be stripped of his privileges. Before him, the Pope dismissed Bishop Joseph Strickland from Texas on November 11.

Cardinal Burke was one of the five cardinals who challenged a month-long Vatican meeting

Cardinal Burke has consistently opposed Pope Francis’s reforms since his papacy’s early days. In 2014, just a year after Pope Francis assumed office, he removed Burke from his position as head of a Vatican tribunal. Cardinal Burke had openly criticized the Pope and claimed that the Church was “directionless” under Francis. He also called it a “ship without a rudder.”

Apart from opposing Francis, he was also one of the five cardinals who were against a month-long Vatican meeting called a synod. Hence, despite Burke’s long-standing role within the Church, his disagreements with Pope Francis led to his removal from key positions.

Ordained as a priest in 1975 by Pope Paul VI, Burke served as bishop of La Crosse, Wisconsin, from 1995 to 2004. Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as the prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Church’s highest judicial authority, in 2008. Pope Benedict XVI later made him a cardinal.

However, Pope Francis removed Burke from the role of prefect in 2014 and assigned him a ceremonial position as cardinal patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Despite the title, Burke had limited active involvement since 2016. Furthermore, in June 2023, Pope Francis officially replaced Burke with Cardinal Gianfranco Ghirlanda, SJ, as part of ongoing changes within the Church.

As Pope Francis took the harsh step of dismissing the Cardinal, he shook the masses, as many people, like Christopher White, a Vatican observer, commented on the situation and called evicting the Cardinal a “new precedent.”

"Typically, retired cardinals continue to reside in Rome after stepping down from their positions, often remaining active in papal liturgies and ceremonial duties. Evicting someone from their Vatican apartment sets a new precedent," White said.

While the participants of the meeting have claimed that Pope Francis has sent out the eviction letter to Burke, BBC reported that Cardinal Burke has not yet received any such note from the Pope’s office. Currently, neither Burke nor anyone from the Vatican offices has commented on the ongoing fiasco.

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