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Cardinal Keith O'Brien to head for Vatican for several months Photo by: JEFF J MITCHELL / GETTY IMAGES

Disgraced Cardinal Keith O’Brien leaves Scotland for prayer and penance at the Vatican

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Cardinal Keith O'Brien to head for Vatican for several months Photo by: JEFF J MITCHELL / GETTY IMAGES

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who resigned from his role of Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh in February amid allegations of sexual misconduct, will be leaving Scotland to take part in a period of spiritual renewal at the Vatican.

In a statement, the Vatican said "His Eminence Cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien, archbishop emeritus of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, for the same reasons he decided not to participate in the last Conclave, and in agreement with the Holy Father, will be leaving Scotland for several months for the purpose of spiritual renewal, prayer, and penance.”

It also added, "Any decision regarding future arrangements for His Eminence shall be agreed with the Holy See.”

Having stood down in February from his role of Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric, Cardinal O’Brien was not permitted to participate in the recent papal conclave following Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation.

In March of this year, Cardinal O’Brien admitted that his sexual conduct had "fallen beneath the standards" expected of him.

Cardinal O’Brien resigned from his position after serious allegations were lodged against him by three priests and one former priest. Allegations of gay relationships  and abuse spanned decades.

The Herald Scotland reports that earlier in May, Scotland's Catholic leadership had appealed to the Vatican to take action on Cardinal O’Brien after it emerged the disgraced cleric had returned to live in Scotland.

The Church confirmed at the time that it had referred the matter to the Vatican. It is understood that Cardinal O’Brien believed it could take up to a year for the Vatican to take any action against him.

However, within only hours of Cardinal O’Brien being spotted publicly back in Scotland since the scandal broke, senior figures in the Church called on the Vatican to begin moves to keep Cardinal O’Brien away from public life.

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