Top British cardinal quits over allegations, will skip conclave

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SummaryA day after a newspaper accused him of committing “inappropriate acts” in his relations with three priests and a former priest

ALAN COWELL & JOHN F BURNS

A day after a newspaper accused him of committing “inappropriate acts” in his relations with three priests and a former priest, Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Monday said he had offered his resignation to the Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI had accepted it.

But he made no specific, public comment on the account in The Observer on Sunday, which said accusations dating back to the 1980s had been forwarded to the Vatican.

Cardinal O’Brien said he had cancelled plans to attend the deliberations at the Vatican over the selection of a new pope to replace Benedict, who stunned the Catholic world by announcing his own resignation on February 11.

A statement issued by the media office of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland said Cardinal O’Brien had already told the pope some time ago of his intention to resign as his 75th birthday approached on March 17. But no date was set.

The pope had now accepted that the resignation should become effective on Monday, February 25, Cardinal O’Brien said.

The announcement came a day after The Observer reported that the four men had made their complaints to the pope’s diplomatic representative in Britain, Antonio Mennini, and that the complaints had reached Archbishop Mennini in the week before Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation.

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