Vatican City — The former head of the Vatican's doctrine office denied reports claiming he was dismissed by Pope Francis due to differences in doctrinal matters.
In a story in the German Catholic newspaper Die Tagespost, journalist Guido Horst said Cardinal Gerhard Muller "could not believe his eyes" upon reading the claims written by Maike Hickson on the online journal OnePeterFive.
"'This is not true; the conversation had been quite different,'" Horst reported that Muller said.
OnePeterFive cited a "trustworthy German source" who quoted an eyewitness "who recently sat with Cardinal Muller at lunch in Mainz, Germany" and allegedly heard the cardinal's account of the meeting with Francis.
The article claims the pope asked the cardinal's stance on women's ordination to the diaconate and priesthood, the repeal of celibacy, the exhortation on the family "Amoris Laetitia" and the dismissal of three employees of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
It goes on to allege that, following the cardinal's responses, the pope said he would not renew his mandate and left the room "without any farewell or explanation."
Die Tagespost reported that Muller said the account of the meeting by the alleged German source "was false."
The claims made in OnePeterFive were reprinted in Italian by journalist Marco Tosatti who received a message denying the claims from Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman.
In the message, shown to Catholic News Service July 13, Burke told Tosatti that the reconstruction of the meeting "is totally false. I ask that you publish what I have written."
Following the announcement that Muller's five-year term would not be renewed, two blogs presented the pope's move as a dismissal of the German cardinal.
However, Muller told the German daily, Allgemeine Zeitung, that "there were no disagreements between Pope Francis and me" and that there had been no dispute over "Amoris Laetitia," the newspaper reported July 2.
The cardinal also said the pope's decision had been unexpected since such terms were usually renewed, but that he was not bothered by it.
"I do not mind," he said, adding that "everyone has to stop" at some point.
"The five-year term had now expired," he said. The cardinal told the newspaper that Francis wanted, in general, to limit the term of office to five years and he just happened to be the first person to which the new standard applied.