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Cardinal Burke notified of Vatican apartment changes

Cardinal Raymond Burke received notice Friday that he must soon begin paying market rate rent on his Vatican apartment, or vacate the residence in early 2024.

Cardinal Raymond Burke. Pufui Pc Pifpef I via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

The Pillar has confirmed that on Dec. 1, Burke received a letter from the Apostolic See dated Nov. 24, which explained that he is expected to begin paying market rate rents for his Vatican apartment, effective Dec. 1, or — if Burke is unable to do so — to surrender the apartment by Feb. 29, 2024.  

The letter did not indicate what the market rate rent on the cardinal’s apartment actually would be, according to sources close to the process. 

But sources say Burke is likely to vacate the apartment — which is located close to St. Peter’s Basilica and in a building housing several other members of the College of Cardinals —  and to begin looking for other accommodations in Rome. 

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The Vatican’s letter was dated four days after Pope Francis reportedly announced measures against Burke, at a Nov. 20 meeting with the heads of Vatican dicasteries. 

Italy’s La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana website reported Nov. 27 that the pope had “supposedly said” at the Nov. 20 meeting that the 75-year-old cardinal was “my enemy” and was taking away his apartment and salary as a retired cardinal.

The website said it had received the information from a Vatican source and confirmed it with other sources.

But Austen Ivereigh, author of a biography of Pope Francis, offered a different account Nov. 29, in an essay at the website Where Peter Is

Ivereigh wrote that he met with the pope on the day the Italian article was published.

“In the course of our conversation, Francis told me he had decided to remove Cardinal Burke’s cardinal privileges — his apartment and salary — because he had been using those privileges against the Church,” he wrote.

Ivereigh added that he received a note from the pope Nov. 28, saying: “I never used the word ‘enemy’ nor the pronoun ‘my.’ I simply announced the fact at the meeting of the dicastery heads, without giving specific explanations.”

The Associated Press reported Nov. 28 that a participant in the meeting recalled that the pope had said he was taking action against Burke because he was a source of “disunity” in the Church.

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In March, the Vatican announced that it would end its customary practice of providing free or subsidized accommodation in Vatican-owned properties to cardinals, prefects of dicasteries, presidents of Vatican bodies, as well as senior curial staffers, in light of the Vatican’s economic crisis.

But Burke is believed to be the first cardinal publicly known to be informed that the changes would become effective with his own residence, and that he could be required to vacate his apartment.

And according to Ivereigh, Pope Francis has indicated that the decision on Burke’s apartment was not only a matter of economics, but a papal decision made in light of the cardinal’s public profile in the Church.

For his part, Burke has said previously that he believes he has a duty to live in Rome. 

According to sources close to the process, the Vatican’s Nov. 24 letter did not mention Burke’s monthly stiped. Cardinals resident in Rome typically receive a stipend of about $4,500 monthly, in recognition of their regular service to the Vatican. 

If Burke were to leave Rome, he would not likely continue receiving the stipend — but it is not clear whether the Vatican intends to discontinue Burke’s stipend even if the cardinal does resident remain in Rome.


The Wisconsin-born Burke served as Archbishop of Saint Louis, Missouri, from 2003 to 2008, when he was named prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, in recognition of his skills and experience as a canon lawyer.

In an early indication of their differences, Pope Francis declined in December 2013 to reappoint Burke as a member of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, a position in which he influenced the appointment of bishops. 

Burke, a highly regarded scholar of canon law, served as prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Church’s highest court, until November 2014, when he was appointed to the largely ceremonial role of patron of the Order of Malta. The move was widely seen as a demotion, while Francis insisted that it was not a punishment, but rather that he needed a “smart American” for the Order of Malta role.

In the new position, Burke was embroiled in a dispute that led to the 2017 resignation of the order’s Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing and an overhaul of the almost 1,000-year-old institution.

In the same year, Pope Francis told a German newspaper that he did not see Burke as an enemy.

In June this year, Pope Francis named the 80-year-old Cardinal Gianfranco Ghirlanda as Burke’s successor as patron of the order.

Burke was one of four cardinals who submitted dubia, or “doubts,” to Pope Francis concerning the interpretation of Amoris laetitia, a 2016 apostolic exhortation on the family. The pope declined to answer the dubia.

Burke was also one of five cardinals who presented dubia to the pope this summer ahead of the synod on synodality’s first session. The pope responded swiftly, but the cardinals resubmitted their queries, which posed questions about doctrinal development, same-sex blessings, the status of the synod on synodality, women priests, and the conditions for sacramental absolution. 

Burke has expressed deep reservations about the global synodal process that will conclude with the synod on synodality’s second and final session in October 2024.

In a speech in October, he said that the synod on synodality’s working document contained statements that “depart strikingly and gravely from the perennial teaching of the Church.”

While Burke has been critical of many of Francis’ initiatives, a source close to the cardinal told The Pillar that Burke does not consider himself to be an “enemy” of the pope. 

“That idea is odious to him,” the source said. “In fact, he has been — very strongly — an advocate for fidelity to the Petrine office, properly understood, and that’s important to him.”

The Pillar confirmed Sunday that Burke remains a member of the Vatican Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, and is a working member of the Apostolic Signatura. 

The cardinal has made no public comment on the reports concerning his salary and apartment.

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