World Bulletin/News Desk
Pope Benedict has changed Catholic Church law to allow a successor to be elected early, the Vatican said on Monday, as a senior cleric's resignation added to the sense of an institution in crisis.
With just four days left before he steps down, the pope accepted the resignation of Britain's only cardinal elector, Keith O'Brien, after allegations he behaved inappropriately with other priests.
O'Brien, who retains the title of cardinal, denied the allegations and said he was stepping down as archbishop of Edinburgh for health reasons. He said he would not attend the conclave that will select a new pontiff because he did not want media attention to be focused on himself.
His resignation came as the Vatican continues to resist calls by some Catholics to stop other cardinals tainted by sex scandals from taking part.
With the Italian media speculating about conspiracies inside the Vatican that pushed Benedict to resign, the pope's spokesman said a report into leaked papal documents would remain confidential and only be shown to the next pontiff.
The Vatican has accused the Italian media, some of which have called for the "Vatileaks" report to be made public, of spreading "false and damaging" rumours in an attempt to influence the cardinals as they head to Rome for the conclave.
The cardinal, who last week advocated allowing Catholic priests to marry as many found it difficult to cope with celibacy, rejected the allegations and was seeking legal advice, his spokesman said.
"Looking back over my years of ministry: For any good I have been able to do, I thank God. For any failures, I apologise to all whom I have offended," O'Brien said in a statement, which made no reference to the recent allegations.
The Observer, which gave little detail on the claims, said three priests and a former priest, from a Scottish diocese, had complained over incidents dating back to 1980.
One said the cardinal formed an "inappropriate relationship" with him while another complained of unwanted behaviour by O'Brien after a late-night drinking session.Last Mod: 25 Şubat 2013, 15:23