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Cardinal, vaccine skeptic, hospitalized with COVID-19 and breathing with ventilator

Aug. 16, 2021 Updated Tue., Aug. 17, 2021 at 9:42 a.m.

Cardinal Raymond Burke applauds during a 2018 news conference at the Italian Senate in Rome.  (Alessandra Tarantino)
Cardinal Raymond Burke applauds during a 2018 news conference at the Italian Senate in Rome. (Alessandra Tarantino)
By Todd Richmond Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. – Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of the Catholic Church’s most outspoken conservatives and a vaccine skeptic, said he has COVID-19 and his staff said he is breathing through a ventilator.

Burke tweeted Aug. 10 that he had caught the virus, was resting comfortably and was receiving excellent medical care.

“Please pray for me as I begin my recovery,” the 73-year-old Burke said in the tweet. “Let us trust in Divine Providence. God bless you.”

On Saturday, his staff tweeted that he had been hospitalized and was on a ventilator, but that doctors were encouraged with his progress.

“(His Eminence) faithfully prayed the Rosary for those suffering from the virus … Let us now pray the Rosary for him,” his staff said.

The Washington Post and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Burke became infected during a visit to Wisconsin and was hospitalized there. Burke was born in Richland Center in southwestern Wisconsin and served as bishop in the Diocese of La Crosse from 1995 to 2004.

COVID-19 cases have been surging in Wisconsin in recent weeks due largely to the delta variant. The state’s seven-day case average stood at 1,139 as of Wednesday, the highest it’s been since February.

The Diocese of La Crosse had no immediate information Monday on where Burke was hospitalized. A spokesman for the Wisconsin Hospital Association said he had no information on Burke. Vatican media officials didn’t immediately respond to an email.

Burke holds a doctorate in canon law. He moved from the Diocese of La Crosse to become archbishop of St. Louis. He spent more than four years in that position, leaving in August 2008 to oversee the Vatican’s supreme court. He was the first American to hold that position.

Burke has built a reputation as an outspoken conservative. He drew attention in the U.S. in 2004 when he said he would deny Holy Communion to the Democratic presidential nominee, John Kerry, a Roman Catholic who supports abortion rights.

Pope Francis reassigned Burke from the Vatican court in 2014 after he said the church was like a ship with no rudder.

Burke has since become one of Francis’ fiercest critics, first by joining three other conservative cardinals in formally asking Francis in 2016 to explain himself after he opened the door to letting civilly remarried Catholics receive Holy Communion.

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