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Cardinal O'Brien Still Eligible To Elect Next Pope

posted 25 Feb 2013, 11:34 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 25 Feb 2013, 11:34 ]

Vatican watchers astounded by the resignation of Britain's only cardinal elector Keith O'Brien say he could still decide to go to Rome to vote for the next Pope.

VATICAN (FEBRUARY 25, 2013) (REUTERS) -  Despite his sudden resignation, Britain's top Catholic official might still be eligible to vote for the next pope, said The Times Vatican Correspondent James Bone on Monday (February 25).

With four days left until Pope Benedict steps down, the leader of the Roman Catholic church accepted the resignation of Britain's only cardinal elector, Keith O'Brien, after allegations he behaved inappropriately with other priests.

"It's a very big surprise that Cardinal O'Brien, who remains a cardinal, will not be coming to Rome to exercise his right to vote on who will become the next pope. But the Vatican are saying nothing about that. They are just saying that they have accepted his resignation as the Archbishop of Edinburgh and St. Andrews," said The TimesCorrespondent James Bone.

"It's a completely different thing from the Vatican point of view - he remains a cardinal so he is in good standing, so if he wants to come to vote on the next pope he can come. The Vatican is not saying publicly that he can't come," Bone added.

Bone also speculated about whether the Vatican might have quietly told O'Brien not travel to Rome for the conclave.

"Now whether behind the scenes they have suggested it might not be appropriate is another question. But if they start doing that publicly there is a risk of a domino effect where other cardinals who have their own problems - and there are a number of them around the world - might feel also obliged not to come and therefore they are leaving all the responsibility on Cardinal O'Brien for his own decision not to come," Bone said.

O'Brien, who retains the title of cardinal, denied the allegations of inappropriate behaviour and said he was stepping down as archbishop of Edinburgh for health reasons.

He said he would not attend the conclave, which is the event where the group of cardinals votes to select the new pope, because he did not want media attention to be focused on him.

Papal biographer Marco Politi said the pontiff started what he called a 'domino effect' of resignations.

"He has shown that nothing is more eternal now in the Catholic Church. And certainly he has begun during his papacy a move towards cleanness and transparency in sex abuse scandals. But this process has to be brought coherently till the end and it can't stop half way. Now the public opinion especially the Catholics are absolute coherence whether you were a sex offender or whether you have shelved cases, or just moved around the priests who are responsible of crimes," said Politi.

Cardinal O'Brien's resignation came as the Vatican continues to resist calls by some Catholics to stop other cardinals tainted by sex scandals from taking part.