It is the first time a cardinal has taken such a step since 1927

Cardinal Keith O’Brien has renounced all the rights and privileges of being a cardinal, the Vatican announced today.

It is understood he will retain the title of cardinal but none of the powers associated with it.

A Vatican statement said: “The Holy Father has accepted the resignation of the rights and privileges of a Cardinal, expressed in canons 349, 353 and 356 of the Code of Canon Law, presented by His Eminence Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O’Brien, Archbishop Emeritus of St Andrews and Edinburgh, after a long period of prayer. With this provision, His Holiness would like to manifest his pastoral solicitude to all the faithful of the Church in Scotland and to encourage them to continue with hope the path of renewal and reconciliation.”

Following the Vatican announcement Cardinal O’Brien said: “I wish to repeat the apology which I made to the Catholic Church and the people of Scotland some two years ago now on March 3 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.”

Cardinal O’Brien resigned as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh two years ago following allegations of sexual misconduct.

He had been the subject of a Vatican investigation, led by Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, whose conclusions were apparently handed in to Pope Francis earlier this month.

Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews and 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.

“For my own part, I would like to express sorrow and regret to those most distressed by the actions of my predecessor.

“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.”

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