Pope Francis faces increasing criticism from conservative Catholics

Pope Francis leading the synod of bishops at the Vatican October 6, 2014.REUTERS

The Pope is preparing for a hectic Christmas schedule this week as senior conservatives stepped up their criticisms in preparation for key events such as next October's Synod on the Family.

The Blaze reports that the role Pope Francis played in encouraging talks between Presidents Barack Obama and Cuba's Raul Castro has created anger among some older Catholics in South Florida where there are strong feelings against the Castro brothers.

Efrain Rivas, a 53-year-old maintenance man in Miami who was a political prisoner in Cuba for 16 years, told The Blaze: "I'm still Catholic till the day I die, but I am a Catholic without a pope."

Overall, the response to his Cuba intervention was positive in the US, which the Pope is due to visit in September.

But further opposition from conservatives is aired in the latest weekly magazine of the French newspaper Le Figaro, headlined "The Secret War in the Vatican: How Pope Francis is shaking up the Church."

It includes an interview with Cardinal Raymond Burke, moved recently from his senior position as prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura to chaplain of the Order of Malta after he criticised Pope Francis over the recent Synod on the Family.

Asked by Le Figaro if a cardinal could be in disagreement with the Pope, Cardinal Burke replied: "It is certainly possible for a cardinal to be in disagreement with the Pope on matters of procedure or of a pastoral line. But it is on the other hand impossible for there to be a divergence on a matter of doctrine and discipline of the Church. This means therefore that a Cardinal, in certain situations, has the duty to say what he truly thinks to the Pope. Obviously, he must always express himself in a respectful manner, because the Pope represents the Petrine ministry. But if the Pope has cardinals around him, it is precisely in order to give him advice."

He added that what was so "strange" in the controversy over communion for remarried divorcees was that "those who recalled and supported that which the Latin Church has always taught have been accused of being against the Holy Father, and of not being in harmony with the Church... It is amazing!"

He also admitted he found the synod, in October, a "difficult experience", partly because the "homosexual question" was also introduced.

Burke told Le Figaro: "In an age filled with confusion, as we see with gender theory, we need the teaching of the Church on marriage. Yet, we are on the contrary pushed towards a direction for the admission to communion of divorced and remarried persons."

He warned that it could lead de facto to a kind of "Catholic divorce", and to the weakening of the indissolubility of marriage.

"The Church must defend marriage, and not weaken it," he said. He called on all Catholics to get involved in the battle to defend marriage at the synod, due to take place in Rome in October 2015.

On Wednesday, to mark the Feast of the Nativity, the Pope will celebrate Midnight Mass at St Peter's. On Christmas Day at noon he will give his traditional Christmas message to the world and impart the blessing, "Urbi et Orbi".

On New Year's Eve, he will celebrate Vespers which will be followed by the "Te Deum" and the eucharistic benediction to mark the end of the calendar year. Then on New Year's Dauy, the Feast of Mary Mother of God, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass and also mark the annual World Day of Peace with a homily on the theme: "No longer slaves, but brothers." Finally he will celebrate Mass at the basilica on the Feast of the Epiphany on 6 January.