Cardinal Keith O’Brien is to leave Scotland for several months after admitting inappropriate sexual conduct during his church career, the Vatican has said.
Britain’s most senior Catholic cleric stepped down from his post as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh earlier this year after priests made allegations against him.
A Vatican statement said: “His Eminence Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien... will be leaving Scotland for several months for the purpose of spiritual renewal, prayer and penance. Any decision regarding future arrangements for his eminence shall be agreed with the Holy See.”
The cardinal stepped down as leader of the Scottish Catholic Church at the end of February after admitting that his sexual conduct “had fallen beneath the standards” expected of him during his almost 50-year career.
He indicated that he would not contest claims by three priests and a former priest of inappropriate behaviour dating back to the 1980s, and intended to retire permanently from the public life of the church.
It was reported earlier this month that the cardinal, originally from Ballycastle, Co Antrim, was to settle in Dunbar, East Lothian.
The Vatican said his departure from Scotland was “in agreement with the Holy Father”.
When he resigned the cardinal issued as apology saying: “To those I have offended, I apologise and ask forgiveness. To the Catholic Church and people of Scotland, I also apologise. I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland.”