By Tim Waggoner and John Jalsevac

ROME, June 27, 2008 ( – The Vatican announced today that the Holy Father has appointed Archbishop Raymond Burke to the prestigious position of Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome. 

As Archbishop Burke leaves the St. Louis diocese, he is praised by North America’s pro-life leaders as one of the most staunch and courageous defenders of the culture of life that his country has ever seen. 

Judie Brown, the president of the American Life League, spoke glowingly of about the Archbishop, telling today, “Archbishop Burke’s contributions to the Church go beyond anybody’s imagination. He is among the most courageous bishops that I have known in my entire life.”

Deirdre McQuade, the Assistant Director for Policy & Communications at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, lauded the Archbishop, saying, “In an age of many direct attacks against life, Archbishop Burke has been a strong, clear voice in defense of human dignity – especially with regard to those most at risk every day in this country: the unborn.”

Fr. Euteneuer of Human Life International called Burke a “hero” of the Church in the United States. While Jim Hughes, the vice president of International Right to Life, said of Burke, “He’s one of those churchmen that Canadian pro-lifers pointed to all the time and said, well, we’re looking for leadership, there’s no finer example than Burke.”

“He’s been unequivocally pro-life and not afraid to speak up and tell it like it is. And that’s what we have needed for a long time.”

Burke, who served as a priest in Wisconsin for 20 years before being ordained Bishop of La Crosse in 1995, will now head the Vatican’s highest court, an appointment that is expected to come with a cardinal’s hat.

While the pro-life movement in North America will miss Burke’s presence, the leaders of the pro-life movement said they are pleased with Burke’s new appointment, which will give him a wider influence in the global Church.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing for the Church,” said Hughes. “It’s a temporary loss for the United States and people in North America that have come to appreciate his leadership. But the role that he will play in the Vatican is going to affect much more than just the United States. So I’m very happy for him. It’s a good appointment, a powerful appointment in my opinion.”

Since his appointment as Archbishop of St. Louis in 2003, Burke has courageously spoken out against all attacks on the culture of life.  He has served the Church in St. Louis admirably, acting as a model not only for bishops, but all Catholics alike.

Burke has been at the centre of numerous controversies for his uncompromising application of the Church’s teachings. Judie Brown recollected how, in 2004, during the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, he publicly spoke out against pro-abortion politicians receiving Holy Communion, saying he would deny John Kerry the sacrament. “He was the first bishop to publicly announce that he was going to enforce Canon law 915 and deny Holy Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians,” said Brown.

Fr. Euteneuer, on the other hand, said that one of the most memorable examples of Burke’s leadership came in 2007, when the Archbishop resigned from the board of a Catholic charity after they booked pro-abortion singer Sheryl Crow for a benefit concert.  Jim Hughes highlighted how the Archbishop stood firmly against embryonic stem cell research in the US. “I think he played a forefront role in the whole thing, working like heck. He was tremendous in that,” said Hughes.

In 2008 Burke made headlines by invoking the Catholic University of St. Louis to discipline an employee for publicly announcing his support for abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

These are only a few examples of how the Archbishop truly led his flock by example and explain why many pro-life leaders throughout North America are bidding him a heartfelt farewell.

Judie Brown told that the Archbishop stood out as a leader for having “truly catechized the people entrusted to him by teaching them the truth about what Humanae Vitae teaches, the truth about what the Church has to say about abortion, the sanctity, the dignity of human life. He has been a forceful advocate for the pro-life cause everywhere he’s been. And always with a tremendous amount of compassion.”

“He’s never been harsh in his statements,” she said, “He’s never been judgmental. He’s always been compassionate, yet firm in the faith.”

When Brown was asked what in particular she thought made the Archbishop such a extraordinary bishop, she responded, “His openness to grace made him great. His devotion to the Lord in the Eucharist made him great. And his imitation of Christ – I mean, in every aspect of his life, and I know him quite well – he is simply, and purely a priest.”

Brown concluded, saying, “[Archbishop Burke] is one of the most loving, humble, holy men I’ve ever met in my life, and he will be sorely missed. But we know that great things will come of this move, even though we are heartbroken.”

“Every time LifeSiteNews has encountered the Archbishop”, says Steve Jalsevac, “we have been taken aback by his always gentle and humble character. Before I actually met Archbishop Burke in person I had this media image of a sort of Catholic bulldog, but he is not like that at all.”

When asked what she had to say to Archbishop Burke as he goes to his new post in Rome, Deirdre McQuade of the USCCB responded, “Your wise and courageous presence will be deeply missed on the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Affairs. Be assured of our prayers as you assume your new post serving the universal Church in Rome.”

Brown concurred, saying, “We wish Archbishop Burke every great grace that is due him.”