British cardinal Keith O’Brien has been forced to resign early, in the days before top members of the Catholic Church will gather in Rome to choose a new Pope to replace Pope Benedict XVI.
O’Brien’s decision to vacate his position as leader of Scottish Catholic Church comes after allegations of “inappropriate conduct,” towards other priests in the 1980s, conduct which he denies.
“The former priest claims Cardinal O’Brien made an inappropriate approach to him in 1980, after night prayers, when he was a seminarian at St Andrew’s College, Drygrange,” reports BBC News.
O’Brien was already set to resign on Nov. 13, 2012. In a statement, O’Brien said: “The Holy Father has now decided that my resignation will take effect today, 25 February 2013, and that he will appoint an apostolic administrator to govern the archdiocese in my place until my successor as archbishop is appointed.”
The former leader of the Scottish Catholic Church also used his statement to offer an apology. “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,” O’Brien said.
Notably, this means that Britain will not have a representative present when cardinals gather to choose a new pope after Pope Benedict XVI’s surprise resignation earlier in February. Benedict XVI gave his final Sunday mass on Feb. 24 and his last day as pope will be Feb. 28.
Benedict XVI announced charges to the conclave process Monday, which mean that cardinals will no longer have to wait for 15 days after his resignation to choose a new pope.