Pope accepts Ballycastle cardinal’s resignation

File photo dated 12/02/13 of Cardinal Keith O'Brien. The resignation of Britain's most senior Catholic cleric is the biggest crisis for the church in the country for around 450 years, a leading historian said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday February 26, 2013. Cardinal O'Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, stepped down yesterday, a day after the Observer newspaper reported that three priests and a former priest had complained about him to the Vatican over alleged "inappropriate" behaviour stretching back 30 years. See PA story RELIGION Cardinal. Photo credit should read: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
File photo dated 12/02/13 of Cardinal Keith O'Brien. The resignation of Britain's most senior Catholic cleric is the biggest crisis for the church in the country for around 450 years, a leading historian said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday February 26, 2013. Cardinal O'Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, stepped down yesterday, a day after the Observer newspaper reported that three priests and a former priest had complained about him to the Vatican over alleged "inappropriate" behaviour stretching back 30 years. See PA story RELIGION Cardinal. Photo credit should read: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
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The Catholic Church in Scotland has welcomed the decision of Pope Francis to accept the resignation of Ballycastle-born Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien from the rights and duties of a Cardinal.

In what is an unprecedented action, Cardinal O’Brien has now removed himself from the key duties that pertain to the office of Cardinal: the election of any future Pope and the assistance of the Holy Father in the governance of the Universal Church. Cardinal O’Brien will also be reduced to a strictly private life with no further participation in any public, religious or civil events.

Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews & Edinburgh said; “As most people are aware, Pope Francis is a good and prayerful man whose character embodies justice and mercy. I am confident therefore that the decision of the Holy Father is fair, equitable and proportionate,”

“Cardinal O’Brien’s behaviour distressed many, demoralised faithful Catholics and made the Church less credible to those who are not Catholic. I therefore acknowledge and welcome his apology to those affected by his behaviour and also to the people of Scotland, especially the Catholic community.”

Today’s announcement follows the decision by Pope Francis to send a personal envoy, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, on a fact-finding mission to Scotland last year. Based upon that investigation – the content of which is fully know only to Pope Francis and Archbishop Scicluna – Pope Francis has reached his canonical conclusion.

Cardinal O’Brien’s decision followed a private discussion with Pope Francis. This was preceded by a period of prayer and penance in order to allow the Cardinal to reflect upon his misconduct.

Archbishop Cushley added: “For my own part, I would like to express sorrow and regret to those most distressed by the actions of my predecessor. I also pay tribute to those who had the courage to come forward to speak to Archbishop Scicluna. I hope now that all of us affected by this sad and regrettable episode will embrace a spirit of forgiveness, the only spirit that can heal any bitterness and hurt that still remains”.

Responding to the decision of Pope Francis to accept his resignation from the rights and duties of a Cardinal, the following statement has been issued by Cardinal Keith O’Brien: “I wish to repeat the apology which I made to the Catholic Church and the people of Scotland some two years ago now on 3rd March 2013. I then said that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me. For that I am deeply sorry.

“I thank Pope Francis for his fatherly care of me and of those I have offended in any way. I will continue to play no part in the public life of the Church in Scotland; and will dedicate the rest of my life in retirement, praying especially for the Archdiocese of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, for Scotland, and for those I have offended in any way.”