Vatican The Dead
Vatican The Dead

In what is being viewed as a shake-up at the Vatican, Pope Francis on Saturday replaced a high-ranking conservative cardinal responsible for church doctrine and head of the office that presides over investigations into sex abuse cases.

Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, 69, had led the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for five years. The pope appointed Spanish Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, 73, to the position.

Mueller has publicly sparred with the pope over the latter's efforts to reform the Catholic Church and make it a more welcoming place for followers, by such actions as allowing remarried divorced people to take part in Communion.

Mueller also has been criticized for his handling of sex abuse cases made against the church.

Earlier this year, prominent Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins, a member of Pope Francis' sex abuse advisory commission, challenged Mueller over his claims that his office had cooperated with the commission.

FILE - Monsignor Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer smi
FILE - Monsignor Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer smiles during a news conference at the Vatican, Sept. 8, 2015. Pope Francis has tapped Ferrer to lead the powerful congregation that handles sex abuse cases and guarantees Catholic orthodoxy around the world.

In March, Collins said Mueller's office had ignored or scuttled commission proposals, approved by the pope, to protect children and care for abuse victims.

Collins resigned from the commission March 1 citing the "unacceptable" lack of cooperation from Mueller and the resistance of his office to heeding the commission's proposals.

Mueller responded to her criticisms by telling Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper that it was time to do away with what he called the "cliche" that the Vatican bureaucracy was resisting Francis' initiatives.

Action against Mueller follows news last week that Vatican hard-liner, Cardinal George Pell, was granted a leave of absence to return to his native Australia to face trial on multiple charges of sexual assault stemming from years ago. Pell, the highest-ranking church official to face such accusations, has denied the charges.

Mueller had been appointed to his position by Pope Benedict XVI.