The resignation of Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic clergyman amid allegations of “inappropriate” behaviour with priests has thrown plans for the election of the next Pope into disarray.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien, announced that he would not only be stepping down as Archbishop of Edinburgh and St Andrew’s but would also not take part in the Conclave in Rome next month.
He said that he did not want to become a distraction as the Cardinals prepare to chose a new leader for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
But experts said his decision to be absent from a Conclave because of a personal scandal was without any historical precedent.
There were fears in Rome that his decision could reignite pressure on a string of other Cardinals who have been tainted by allegations of covering up child abuse to stand aside as well.