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 Patrick Craine / LifeSiteNews

ROME, June 30, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis is removing the head of the Vatican's doctrinal office, one of the Church's most senior cardinals, who has taken an orthodox stand from the beginning of the pontificate.

LifeSite has confirmed with a source in Rome that Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, is to be removed from his office on July 2, the end of his five-year mandate in the position.

In recent years, the mandate for the office has been extended until the normal retirement age of 75. In the case of Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, it was extended beyond, until his election to the pontificate at age 78.

But Cardinal Muller, 69, has been steadfast in his opposition to the liberal interpretation of Amoris Laetitia favored by Pope Francis.

In terms of vocal conservatives in the hierarchy of the Vatican only Cardinal Robert Sarah remains. Cardinal Burke was removed by Pope Francis and demoted to patron of the Order of Malta. Australian Cardinal George Pell, as reported yesterday, is now off to his home country to defend himself against media-hyped charges of sexual abuse.

Cardinal Muller, according to sources, seems set to take over as the Patron of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, replacing Cardinal Edwin O’Brien who at 78 is three years past retirement age.

The story broke last week in the Spanish-language newspaper Clarin, and was reported today by the Rome-based Corrispondenza Romana. 

Clarin suggested Muller would be replaced by Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, known as a yes-man in Church circles. Other candidates include Vienna Cardinal Chistoph Schonborn and Archbishop Victor Fernandez, a close collaborator of Pope Francis.

According to the Vatican press office, Pope Francis met Cardinal Muller this morning, but no information about the meeting has been made public.  

The head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was at one time second in power only to the Pope.