The British church leader sacked by the Pope openly boasted of his friendship with notorious pedophile and TV personality Jimmy Savile.

The Sun newspaper has revealed the close links between Cardinal Keith O’Brien and the child sex abuser.

The paper reports that Cardinal O’Brien had formed a ‘close bond with the BBC child sex beast over many years’ and paid a personal tribute to him after his death.

O’Brien, an outspoken opponent of gay rights, was ordered to resign by the Vatican after male priests came forward to say he behaved ‘inappropriately’ towards them in the 1980s.

One former priest has revealed that he needed long-term psychological counselling after O’Brien’ actions.

The Cardinal, archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, denies the allegations and is understood to be consulting lawyers.

He did issue a statement confirming Pope Benedict’s orders and apologising for ‘failures’ during his ministry.

The paper reports that Cardinal O’Brien paid tribute to his ‘friend’ Savile after his death in October, months before the DJ was unmasked as one of Britain’s worst ever child sex predators.

He told the Scottish Catholic Observer: “My friendship with Jimmy Savile developed over many years since I was assistant priest in St Patrick’s Parish, Kilsyth.

“We were always trying to fundraise, not only for the parish, but for a variety of local and national charities.”

Savile was awarded the papal knighthood in 1990, a decision the Vatican later admitted regretting.

After O’Brien’s sacking, Britain’s Catholic church has been left without a representative at next month’s meeting to select Pope Benedict’s successor.

O’Brien had originally asked to retire on March 17 after suffering ill health.

But he said in a statement on Monday: “The Holy Father has now decided that my resignation will take effect today.”

Antrim born O’Brien became archbishop in 1985 and was proclaimed a cardinal in 2003.

He vehemently opposed gay adoption and same-sex marriages and was named ‘bigot of the year’ by campaign group Stonewall last year.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien alongside the late BBC celebrity Jimmy SavileGoogle Images