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New Pope must address troubles, says Murphy-O’Connor

26 February 2013

CATHOLIC CHURCH (ENGLAND AND WALES)

THE resignation of the RC Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, was "up to his own conscience", the Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, said today. He was not forced, or even asked, to step down.

At a packed press conference at the offices of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, called before the allegations against Cardinal O'Brien came to light, the Archbishop faced multiple questions about the situation in Scotland. He had been due to speak about the forthcoming Conclave and his reflections on Pope Benedict XVI's legacy.

Asked about his reaction to Cardinal O'Brien's resignation, he said: "I think it has been very sad and I think that what has happened both for him and the church in Scotland has been very damaging, but Cardinal O'Brien is a very honest man . . . he himself has contested them [the allegations]."

A senior bishop will be appointed an as apostolic administrator for the diocese and "part of his job will be to examine the allegations".

Asked whether it was the wise of the Cardinal to resign if he had done nothing wrong, the Archbishop said: "It is up to his own conscience that he stepped down. He was not asked to. He thought that it would be a distraction."

The Archbishop was also asked whether other Cardinals with "a shadow over their names" should consider following Cardinal O'Brien's example in abstaining from attending the forthcoming Conclave. He replied: "That is up to their own conscience".

The Archbishop acknowledged that the Church had been dogged by "troubles and scandals that have to be addressed". He said: "There is no doubt that there has to be reform, that these issues have to be addressed at the highest level. It is not just the job of the Pope but the job of the bishops. The new Pope will go with a very clear mandate." Without this reform, he said, "there is no doubt that not just the image of the Church but the effectiveness of the Church in witnessing to the Good News will be affected."

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