St. Louis archbishop gets post at Vatican

Friday, June 27, 2008 | 9:07 a.m. CDT; updated 1:56 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

ST. LOUIS — Archbishop Raymond Burke, whose nearly five years at the helm of the St. Louis archdiocese has divided worshippers here, is leaving St. Louis for a high Vatican post.

Burke, a church law expert, was named Friday to head the Vatican's supreme court. He is viewed as one of the most conservative bishops in the U.S.

He was known, among other things, for his tough stance that politicians who support abortion rights should be denied Holy Communion.

Burke's appointment by Pope Benedict XVI was part of a mini shuffle, with the previous court head, Italian Cardinal Agostino Vallini, named the pontiff's assistant for the diocese of Rome.

With Friday's appointment, announced at 5 a.m. local time, Burke is no longer archbishop of St. Louis, the archdiocese announced early Friday.

It said Burke will remain in St. Louis until he moves to Rome later this summer to head the supreme court, formally known as the Apostolic Signatura.

The court resolves jurisdictional disputes among various Vatican tribunals and hears procedural appeals from the Rota, which reviews annulments.

Benedict and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, have complained for years that local tribunals grant an excessive number of annulments.

The supreme court is traditionally headed by a cardinal.

In 2004, Burke caused a stir by saying he would deny Communion to the Democratic presidential nominee, John Kerry, because of the Massachusetts senator's stance supporting abortion rights. Most bishops spoke only in general terms on the issue without naming names.

No successor for St. Louis was immediately announced.

Associated Press Bureau Chief Victor Simpson contributed to this report from Rome.

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