A high-ranking Roman Catholic cardinal and vaccine skeptic hospitalised after contracting Covid-19 was off a ventilator and being moved out of intensive care on Saturday, according to officials at a Wisconsin shrine he founded.
Raymond Burke was to return to a regular hospital room at an undisclosed location, the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse said.
Burke, 73, one of the most outspoken Catholic conservatives, had been sedated and on a ventilator following his announcement on 10 August that he had contracted the coronavirus.
“His sister spoke with him on the phone this morning, and His Eminence expressed his deep gratitude for the many prayers offered on his behalf,” said the Rev Paul N Check, executive director of the shrine, on Saturday.
“His family asks that we continue those prayers for his full and speedy recovery, and they are grateful to God for the exceptional medical care the Cardinal has received from the dedicated doctors and nurses who continue to assist him.”
An earlier statement from the shrine said Burke had received sacraments from priests and several relics had been placed in his room.
Burke was bishop in the Diocese of La Crosse before becoming archbishop in St Louis. He left St Louis in 2008 to oversee the Vatican’s supreme court, the first American to hold that position.
He built a reputation as an outspoken conservative, drawing attention in 2004 when he said he wouldn’t give Holy Communion to Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry because Kerry supported abortion rights. In 2009 he chastised the University of Notre Dame over plans to give President Barack Obama an honorary degree because Obama, too, supported abortion rights.
Pope Francis moved Burke out of the Vatican court in 2014 after Burke said the church was like a ship with no rudder.
In 2016, Burke joined three other conservative cardinals in formally asking the pope to explain why he decided to let remarried Catholics receive Holy Communion.
Burke also warned that governments were using fear of the pandemic to manipulate people. He spoke out against mandatory vaccinations in May 2020, and said some in society want to implant microchips in people. The best weapon for fighting the virus, he said, was Jesus Christ.