UK cardinal quits amid inappropriate behaviour claims
Britain's most senior Catholic cleric has stepped down after allegations of inappropriate behaviour were made public.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien had been due to retire from his position as Archbishop of Edinburgh and St Andrews in a few weeks' time.
Instead, he is resigning after a UK newspaper made public allegations of inappropriate behaviour.
Three priests and one former priest made the allegations, saying the misconduct took place in the 1980s.
Cardinal O'Brien has denied the allegations and says he was stepping down for health reasons.
"For any good I have been able to do, I thank God. For any failures, I apologise to all whom I have offended," he said in a statement, which made no reference to the recent allegations.
Cardinal O'Brien had been Britain's only cardinal elector, and his departure means Britain will not have a representative in the papal conclave which will soon meet to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI.
In his statement Cardinal O'Brien confirmed he would not be heading to Rome.
"I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me - but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor," he said.
The Vatican issued a statement confirming the Pope had accepted Cardinal O'Brien's resignation.
Furthermore, the Pope has amended Roman Catholic church law so the conclave to elect his successor can be brought forward.
The change means the College of Cardinals will no longer have to wait 15 days after the papacy becomes vacant before beginning conclave.
Pope Benedict's resignation is due to take effect later this week.