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Religion

Britain's top Catholic Cardinal O'Brien resigns after misconduct claims

Britain's most senior Roman Catholic cleric has resigned a day after denying allegations that he had behaved in an "inappropriate" way with other priests. Cardinal Keith O’Brien said he would leave with immediate effect.

O'Brien said in a statement on Monday that he was standing down with immediate effect after his resignation had been accepted by Pope Benedict XVI.

"The Holy Father has now decided that my resignation will take effect today, 25 February 2013," O'Brien, who is leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, said.

The cardinal explained, in light of allegations that surfaced in the British media, he would not be going to Rome to take part in the election of a replacement for Pope Benedict. O’Brien had been due to be Britain’s only representative on the conclave.

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."

"I will not join them for this conclave in person," he said. "I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focussed on me - but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor."

A one-sentence statement from the Vatican confirmed that O'Brien had resigned and that it had been accepted because of his age.

O'Brien, known for his outspoken views on homosexuality, had been accused of inappropriate behavior stretching back 30 years, according to British Sunday newspaper the Observer. The cardinal, who is also Bishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh and who had been due to stand down next month, rejects the claims.

The allegations include claims that, after a late-night drinking session, one priest had received unwanted attention from the cardinal. The newspaper said another priest accused O'Brien of using night prayers as cover for inappropriate contact.

rc/rg (AFP, Reuters)