The Catholic Church in Britain has been left with no vote in the forthcoming conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI following the resignation of its most senior cleric amid allegations of "inappropriate" behaviour towards fellow priests.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, is to step down with immediate effect, it was announced, 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.
A statement issued by the cardinal added that he would not now attend the papal conclave, as he did not wish to be the centre of media attention and distract from the process of electing a new pope.
The 74-year-old cleric tendered his resignation to Pope Benedict in November, citing age and "indifferent health". He had been widely expected to step down next month when he turns 75.
His resignation was accepted by the pope on February 18, according to a statement from the Scottish Catholic Media Office. (SCMO)