Pope Francis accepts Cardinal Keith O'Brien's resignation

Cardinal Keith O'Brien stood down as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh in 2013.Reuters

The Pope has accepted the resignation of the shamed Cardinal Keith O'Brien who is now to be forced into retirement and banished from public religious and civil life. The cardinal will take no part in the conclave to elect the next Pope.

The Catholic Church in Scotland welcomed Pope Francis's decision, which comes two years after O'Brien stood down as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh having admitted sexual relationships with men dating back decades.

It means the Church in Rome has accepted the truth of the stories told by four priests who said the Cardinal, now 77, was guilty of inappropriate sexual conduct with them in the 1980s.

A further seminarian had also launched a civil action alleging the cardinal had made sexual contact with him in the late 1970s.

Although he retains the title of cardinal and his red hat, and as a priest can celebrate Mass in his home, he is banned from taking part in public, religious or civil events such as weddings, baptisms or Requiem Masses. He is also banned from hearing public confessions.

The cardinal's behaviour had distressed many, demoralised faithful Catholics and made the Church less credible to non-Catholics, according to Archbishop Leo Cushley, his successor at St Andrews and Edinburgh.

Archbishop Cushley said: "As most people are aware, Pope Francis is a good and prayerful man whose character embodies justice and mercy. I am confident therefore that the decision of the Holy Father is fair, equitable and proportionate.

"I therefore acknowledge and welcome Cardinal O'Brien's apology to those affected by his behaviour and also to the people of Scotland, especially the Catholic community."

Cardinal O'Brien said: "I wish to repeat the apology which I made to the Catholic Church and the people of Scotland some two years ago now on 3rd March 2013.

"I then said that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me. For that I am deeply sorry".

"I thank Pope Francis for his fatherly care of me and of those I have offended in any way. I will continue to play no part in the public life of the Church in Scotland and will dedicate the rest of my life in retirement, praying especially for the Archdiocese of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, for Scotland, and for those I have offended in any way."