By Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

ROME, October 19, 2009 ( - Two prelates who are known for their vocal defence of life and family as well as the defence of traditional liturgical practices have been appointed to one of the most critical offices in the Catholic Church. Archbishop Raymond L. Burke and Antonio Cardinal Canizares Llovera have been appointed to serve in the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, the group that oversees the selection of bishops around the world.

Archbishop Burke is well known both in the US and internationally as one of the foremost defenders of the unborn in the Catholic Church today. The former head of the archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri, and now the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's highest tribunal, was among the handful of US bishops who enforced the Church's Code of Canon Law that says that those involved in abortion have ipso facto excommunicated themselves. Burke informed pro-abortion Catholic politicians that they were not allowed to receive Communion in any of the Catholic churches in his diocese and was vocally opposed to the appearance of President Barack Obama at the University of Notre Dame.

The influence of the new appointees could be long-lasting, with membership renewed every five years. With mandatory retirement from curial offices being 80 years, Burke, at 61, could remain active in the Congregation for nearly 20 years, allowing him to have significant impact on the direction of the Catholic Church worldwide.

Cardinal Canizares, another appointee to the Congregation for Bishops, who is currently the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and former head of the ancient archdiocese of Toledo in Spain, told in an interview in July that the withholding of Communion from pro-abortion politicians is a matter of pastoral concern for their souls.

“I think that the strongest words are found in St. Paul: one who goes to the Eucharist and is not properly prepared, duly prepared, 'he eats his own condemnation'. This is the strongest thing that we can say and what is the most truthful statement,” he said.

A friend of Pope Benedict, Canizares has been nicknamed the Ratzingerino, or “Little Ratzinger.” In 2006, responding to anti-family and anti-life legislation by the Zapatero socialist government in Spain, Cardinal Canizares took up one of Pope Benedict's themes against moral relativism, saying that without an objective moral standard, societies inevitably slide into totalitarianism.

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