Pope Francis is reportedly set to demote a prominent US cardinal who recently spoke out against the pontiff's views on divorce and abortion.
The Pope is planning to exile Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke - who currently holds the powerful seat of head of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's top court - from the Holy See. He would then position him in the prestigious but mainly ceremonial role of head of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Vatican analysts have suggested.
Burke, 66, would replace 80-year-old Paolo Sardi, L'Espresso magazine reported. If the decision is confirmed Burke will be removed from the Curia and left with little power just weeks before a key meeting of the Catholic Church.
A hard-line conservative, Burke is one of five cardinals who have come out against reforming attitudes to divorce and other family issues in the Catholic doctrine.
Headed by Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the former Roman Inquisition that oversees the adherence to doctrinal orthodoxy, the group is against the Pope's vision of a more inclusive and compassionate church, as revealed in a book that is to be published in October.
Remaining In The Truth Of Christ notes that the New Testament "shows us Christ who unambiguously prohibits divorce and subsequent remarriage on the basis of God's original plan for matrimony", according to The Times.
The book highlights the strong opposition of some areas of the Catholic Church to the Pope's groundbreaking reforms.
The Argentine pontiff broke with tradition last weekend at the Vatican's St Peter's Basilica by marrying 20 couples who had been married before, and the group included some who were "cohabiting in sin" and a single mother.
The weddings came just three weeks before a major meeting of the Catholic Church, called the Synod, which will address family issues of marriage, divorce and contraception.
In an apparent reply to the book's authors, the Pope said the church was "outbound to those distant in every sense".
Burke, who was first ordained a priest by Pope Paul VI in 1975 and advanced in his career under John Paul II, had also recently challenged the Pope's take on abortion.
Replying to the Pontiff's comment that abortion was not high on the Catholic agenda, as the church would make more of an impact by shifting its focus to the more essential issues of "curing wounds and warming hearts" Burke said: "What could be more essential than the natural moral law?"
According to L'Espresso vaticanist Sandro Magister, Burke will not be the only victim of the Pope's reformist purge.
"Another whose fate appears to be sealed is the Spanish archbishop of Opus Dei Celso Morga Iruzubieta, secretary of the congregation for the clergy, destined to leave Rome for an Iberian diocese not of the first rank," Magister wrote.