UK Cardinal resigns, to skip papal conclave
APLONDON/VATICAN CITY--Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Britain's highest-ranking Catholic leader, says he is resigning as archbishop in the wake of misconduct allegations and will be skipping the conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI.
February 26, 2013, 12:15 am TWN
The cardinal said in a statement Monday that he will not attend because he doesn't want media attention focused on him during the important session in Rome.
Experts said the decision not to attend the papal conclave is unprecedented; never before has a cardinal stayed away from a conclave because of personal scandal, according to Vatican historian Ambrogio Piazzoni, the vice prefect of the Vatican library.
The Vatican confirmed that O'Brien had resigned as archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh. It was accepted under the code of canon law due to O'Brien's age; he turns 75 — the normal retirement age for bishops — on March 17.
He said in a statement that he is in “indifferent health” and that he had offered his resignation last November. A church statement says the pope accepted O'Brien's resignation on Feb. 18.
“Looking back over my years of ministry: For any good I have been able to do, I thank God. For any failures, I apologize to all whom I have offended,” he said.
O'Brien has said through his spokesman that he is contesting allegations made Sunday in a British newspaper that three priests and a former priest have filed complaints to the Vatican alleging that the cardinal acted inappropriately with them.
The Observer newspaper did not name the priests, but it said their allegations date back to the 1980s. There were no details about the alleged inappropriate behavior.
The one-sentence Vatican statement issued Monday made no reference to those allegations.
A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Sunday the complaints had been channeled through the office of the papal nuncio — the Vatican's ambassador — in London.
Pope Changes Conclave Rules, Allows Earlier Start
Pope Benedict XVI has changed the rules of the conclave that will elect his successor, allowing cardinals to move up the start date if all of them arrive in Rome before the usual 15-day transition between pontificates.
Benedict signed a legal document, issued Monday, with some line-by-line changes to the 1996 Vatican law governing the election of a new pope. It is one of his last acts as pope before resigning Thursday.
The date of the conclave's start is important because Holy Week begins March 24, with Easter Sunday March 31. In order to have a new pope in place for the church's most solemn liturgical period, he would need to be installed by Sunday, March 17 — a tight timeframe if a conclave were to start March 15.