As it happened: Cardinal Keith O'Brien resigns

Key points

  • Britain's most senior Roman Catholic cleric, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, resigns as leader of the Scottish Catholic Church
  • It comes after newspaper reports that three priests and one ex-priest had complained about inappropriate behaviour towards them in the '80s
  • The Scottish Catholic Church says the cardinal, who is 74 and was due to retire in a few weeks, contests the claims and is taking legal advice

Live text

Reporting:

  • Pauline McKenna 
  • Claire Heald 
  • Steve Brocklehurst 

Last updated 25 February 2013

BREAKING 1100 Breaking News

Britain's most senior Roman Catholic cleric, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, is stepping down as the head of the Scottish Catholic Church.

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Cardinal O'Brien's decision follows allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards priests dating back to the 1980s. He contests the claims and is seeking legal action.

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The Vatican is expected shortly to confirm that Pope Benedict has accepted Cardinal O'Brien's decision.

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Cardinal Keith O'Brien

Cardinal O'Brien is the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

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The cardinal is not now expected to travel to Rome to take part in the election for a successor to the Pope - leaving Britain unrepresented in the election.

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BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott says the resignation of Cardinal O'Brien creates a crisis for the Church in Scotland, and represents a heavy blow to the wider Church as it battles to shore up its reputation ahead of the papal election or "conclave".

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The conclave is already expected to be difficult in the circumstances created by Pope Benedict's unprecedented resignation, our correspondent adds. The Vatican is also struggling to deal with reports of internal corruption and mismanagement.

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Cardinal Keith O'Brien

The cardinal was due to retire when he reaches his 75th birthday in a few weeks

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Cardinal O'Brien's resignation is also a personal tragedy for himself, the BBC's Robert Pigott says. "He was about to retire after taking part as Britain's only representative in the papal election next month, a role he took extremely seriously. He said in a BBC interview on Friday that he found the responsibility of helping to choose a successor to Pope Benedict 'almost frightening'."

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In a profile, the Herald, Scotland says Cardinal Keith O'Brien has been no stranger to controversy since he was made a cardinal in 2003.