No British vote on Pope as cardinal steps down
THE Catholic Church in Britain was in turmoil after its most senior cleric, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who faces allegations of "inappropriate" behaviour, announced he is stepping down.
The 74-year-old (pictured right) tendered his resignation as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh in November to Pope Benedict XVI, but said in a statement yesterday: "The Holy Father has now decided that my resignation will take effect today."
He added that he would not be attending the conclave of cardinals due to choose a successor to Pope Benedict next month in Rome, leaving Britain's Roman Catholics with no vote in the election.
"I have valued the opportunity of serving the people of Scotland and overseas in various ways since becoming a priest," Cardinal O'Brien said in a statement.
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"Looking back over my years of ministry, for any good I have been able to do, I thank God.
"For any failures, I apologise to all whom I have offended."
The announcement of his immediate resignation comes after a newspaper claimed that three priests and a former priest in Scotland reported the cardinal to the Vatican over allegations of inappropriate behaviour stretching back 30 years.
It is understood that Cardinal O'Brien contests the claims.
It is understood the four statements containing the claims were submitted to the Papal Nuncio Antonio Mennini's office the week before Benedict's resignation was announced on February 11.
The former leader of Scotland's Roman Catholics, Cardinal O'Brien tendered his resignation in November to the Pope citing "indifferent health" but had not been expected to step down until his 75th birthday on March 17.
He was created a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2003 and became prominent for his colourful and strongly- voiced defence of conservative Catholic teaching.