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Pope Francis Demotes Cardinal Critical of Reforms

The removal of Cardinal Raymond Burke from the Vatican's highest court had been expected, but Burke had recently criticized the Pope.

Pope Francis on Saturday demoted an outspoken conservative American cardinal who has been highly critical of the pontiff's reformist leadership of the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinal Raymond Burke, 66, was removed as head of the Vatican's highest court and appointed to the ceremonial post of chaplain of the charity group Knights of Malta.

The move, which the Vatican announced on Saturday without comment, had been expected. Burke said last month he had been told he would move to a new job but did not know when. Burke, who until Saturday was the highest-ranking American in the Vatican, gave a series of recent interviews criticizing the pope and had emerged as the face of conservative opposition to Francis' reform agenda.

In an interview with a Spanish magazine last month, Burke, known for his unbending interpretation of doctrine, compared the Catholic Church under Francis to "a ship without a rudder." At a meeting of bishops from around the world last month, Burke was the flag-bearer for conservatives opposed to the Church adopting a more welcoming attitude towards homosexuals.

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— Reuters