Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, is stepping down as leader of the Scottish Catholic Church. He had been accused of inappropriate behaviour towards priests dating back to the 1980s – claims he contests.
Cardinal O’Brien, the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, apologised to “all whom I have offended” for “any failures” during his ministry. He will not take part in electing a new pope, leaving Britain unrepresented.
The cardinal said in a statement: “I have valued the opportunity of serving the people of Scotland and overseas in various ways since becoming a priest.
“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.”
He remains a cardinal and would be entitled to join the conclave selecting the new Pope after Benedict XVI announced on 11 February that he would resign – but said he would not go.
“I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me – but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor,” he said.
“However, I will pray with them and for them that, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, they will make the correct choice for the future good of the Church.”
The Vatican confirmed the cardinal has stepped down from his post. Although the announcement has only just been made public, the Scottish Catholic Media Office said Pope Benedict had accepted the cardinal’s resignation on 18 February.