In a major shake-up of the Vatican's administration on Saturday, Pope Francis replaced Catholicism's top theologian, a conservative German cardinal who has been at odds with the pontiff's vision of a more inclusive Church.
A brief Vatican statement said Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Mueller's five-year mandate as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a department charged with defending Catholic doctrine, would not be renewed.
The position is the most important one that a pope fills in the Vatican hierarchy after the Secretary of State. Most incumbents keep it until they retire, which in Mueller's case would have been in six years.
Mueller, 69, who was appointed by former Pope Benedict in 2012, will be succeeded by the department's number two, Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer.
Ladaria, a 73-year-old Spaniard who, like the Argentine pope is a member of the Jesuit order, is said by those who know him to be a soft-spoken person who shuns the limelight. Mueller, by contrast, often appears in the media.
"They speak the same language and Ladaria is someone who is meek. He does not agitate the pope and does not threaten him," said a priest who works in the Vatican and knows both Mueller and Ladaria, asking not to be named.
Since his election in 2013, Francis has given hope to progressives who want him to forge ahead with his vision for a more welcoming Church that concentrates on mercy rather than the strict enforcement of rigid rules they see as antiquated.
Mueller is one of several cardinals in the Vatican who have publicly sparred with the pope.
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