Cardinal Burke off ventilator, still hospitalized with COVID

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FILE – In this Sept. 6, 2018 file photo, Cardinal Raymond Burke applauds during a press conference at the Italian Senate, in Rome. Cardinal 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. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)

LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) — A high-ranking Roman Catholic cardinal who was hospitalized after contracting COVID-19 is off a ventilator and is being moved out of intensive care, according to officials at a Wisconsin shrine that he founded.

Cardinal Raymond Burke was to return to a regular hospital room Saturday at an undisclosed location, the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse said in a statement.

Burke, 73, one of the Catholic Church’s most outspoken conservatives and a vaccine skeptic, had been sedated and on a ventilatorfollowing his tweet Aug. 10 that he had contracted the coronavirus.

“His sister spoke with him on the phone this morning, and His Eminence expressed his deep gratitude for the many prayers offered on his behalf,” the statement from the Rev. Paul N. Check, the executive director of the shrine said Saturday.

“His family asks that we continue those prayers for his full and speedy recovery, and they are grateful to God for the exceptional medical care the Cardinal has received from the dedicated doctors and nurses who continue to assist him,” the statement read.

An earlier statement from the shrine said Burke had received sacraments from priests and several relics had been placed in his room.

Burke holds a doctorate in canon law. He served as bishop in the Diocese of La Crosse before becoming archbishop in St. Louis. He left St. Louis in 2008 to oversee the Vatican’s supreme court, becoming the first American to hold that position.

He has built a reputation as an outspoken conservative. He drew attention in 2004 when he said he wouldn’t give Holy Communion to Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry because Kerry supports abortion rights. In 2009 he chastised the University of Notre Dame over plans to give then-President Barack Obama an honorary degree because Obama, too, supports abortion rights.

Francis moved Burke out of the Vatican court in 2014 after Burke said the church was like a ship with no rudder.

Burke has been on the attack against Francis since then. He joined three other conservative cardinals in formally asking the pope in 2016 to explain why he decided to let remarried Catholics receive Holy Communion.

Burke also has warned people that governments were using fear of the pandemic to manipulate people. He spoke out against mandatory vaccinations in May 2020, and said some in society want to implant microchips in people. He has said the best weapon for fighting the virus is Jesus Christ.

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