Vaccine skeptic US cardinal on ventilator after Covid diagnosis

Cardinal Raymond Burke, a staunch conservative in the US Catholic church who has emerged as a leading critic of Pope Francis and a vaccine skeptic, was placed on a ventilator just days after testing positive for Covid-19.

“Doctors are encouraged by his progress,” the cardinal’s official Twitter account announced. Supporters were asked to “pray the Rosary for him”.

The 73-year-old, who has frequently been seen maskless in Rome, where he lives, tested positive last Wednesday while visiting Wisconsin.

Burke said then: “Thanks be to God, I am resting comfortably and receiving excellent medical care. Please pray for me as I begin my recovery. Let us trust in Divine Providence. God bless you.”

Last May, Burke spoke out forcefully against Covid-19 vaccines, saying: “It must be clear that vaccination itself cannot be imposed, in a totalitarian manner, on citizens.”

He also said vaccines had been developed “through the use of the cell lines of aborted fetuses” and that “a kind of microchip needs to be placed under the skin of every person, so that any moment he or she can be controlled by the state regarding health and about other matters which we can only imagine”.

Experts on health and misinformation have repeatedly debunked such conspiracy theories.

Cardinal Burke has not said if he has been vaccinated.

The former archbishop of St Louis was made a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 but demoted from a senior Vatican position by Pope Francis in 2014.

Burke is often seen as the ringleader of a faction opposed to Francis, whom he has publicly challenged on issues including abortion and homosexuality.

In an interview with Buzzfeed in 2014, for example, Burke criticised Francis’s liberal beliefs on homosexuality, claiming he had “done a lot of harm”.

In 2015, Burke said the Catholic church had developed an increasingly “feminized environment”, saying: “Men are often reluctant to become active in the Church. The … lack of the Church’s effort to engage men has led many men to simply opt out.”

The cardinal, who has had strong ties with the former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, has also spoken out against immigration, saying: “To resist large-scale Muslim immigration in my judgement is to be responsible.”

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