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December 30, 2017 ( – Pope Emeritus Benedict is praising the Vatican’s recently-dismissed doctrinal chief, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, saying of him that he “defended the clear traditions of the faith” while in office, and adding, “but in the spirit of Pope Francis you have tried to understand how they can be lived today.”

“Your five-year commission at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has expired, so you do not have a specific office anymore, but a priest and certainly a bishop and cardinal is never simply retired,” Benedict is quoted as saying by the Catholic Herald, adding that he must continue to “publicly serve the faith.”

The statements appear in an introduction written by Benedict for a book of essays honoring Cardinal Müller on his upcoming 70th birthday and 40th anniversary of ordination as a priest, according to an article in Italian published by the new Vatican News service.

Benedict’s reference to Müller defending the “clear traditions of the faith” seems to refer to the cardinal’s insistence on interpreting Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia to mean that those living in adultery cannot receive Holy Communion, which reflects the Catholic Church’s perennial discipline regarding the sacraments.  

Müller’s resistance to Pope Francis’ apparent agenda to change Catholic doctrine on that point presumably contributed to his dismissal earlier this year. Müller later told the press that Pope Emeritus Benedict was “disappointed” by his removal.

Benedict’s praise of Müller of comes in the wake of Pope Francis’ angry Christmas message to the Roman curia, in which he complains bitterly of prelates whom he has dismissed, claiming that they are “corrupted by ambition or vainglory” and accusing them of blaming the curial system for their own failings.  

Francis may have been referring to Müller, who has publicly complained that Francis dismissed him in an inappropriate way in June of this year, informing him that his tenure would not be renewed on the very last day of his term and without explanation.

“He did not give a reason, just as he gave no reason for dismissing three highly competent members of the CDF [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] a few months earlier,” Muller said in a later interview, adding “I cannot accept this way of doing things. As a bishop, one cannot treat people in this way.”

Müller has also accused Pope Francis’ theological advisors of giving him poor guidance regarding communion for divorced and invalidly remarried couples.

Pope Emeritus Benedict expressed support earlier this year for another marginalized member of the curia, Cardinal Robert Sarah, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, who has been stripped of almost all of his authority by Pope Francis following his own apparent dissent against Francis’ liberal doctrinal agenda.

Pope Benedict appointed Müller in 2012 as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which oversees the integrity of Catholic doctrine. Müller is very close to Benedict personally, and as Bishop of Regensburg oversaw the publication of a sixteen-volume edition of Benedict’s complete works, under his birth name, Joseph Ratzinger. Müller also founded the “Pope Benedict Institute” in his diocese to house documentation on the life of the pontiff.