The Vatican has ordered Cardinal Keith O'Brien to leave Scotland. Britain's most senior priest retired from the church in Scotland after admitting inappropriate sexual conduct with priests and planned to move to a house in Dunbar in East Lothian after vacating his official residence in Edinburgh.

According to the Herald, archbishop of Glasgow Philip Tartaglia appealed to the Vatican, warning of possible damage to the church if O'Brien maintained a public profile in Scotland. Even though O'Brien, who is originally from Northern Ireland, has retired, he remains the most senior priest in Scotland and no one outside Rome has the authority to prevent him from playing a role in public life.

"The cardinal has been advised not to relocate to the parish in Dunbar and has been told he should leave the country," said an anonymous source. "That's extremely disappointing and not a Christian way to treat someone. There's clearly pressure from within and outwith the Church and no show of unity."

However, Canon John Creanor, of the Our Lady of the Waves in Dunbar, said he had no knowledge of Rome telling the 75-year-old O'Brien to leave Scotland.

"If that was the case, I would be horrified. The people of Dunbar are keenly awaiting his arrival," he said.

More than 90% of those attending the Saturday vigil and Sunday mass at Our Lady of the Waves signed a petition declaring "our support and affection for Cardinal Keith O'Brien."

On Friday, O'Brien was quoted as saying: "I'm just trying to do my best to live a good Christian life myself now. Many people have been helping me to go back on the right path and that's what I have to do. But I haven't always managed to live that in my own life.

"I have been supported by many good Christian people and many people of no religion at all who realise I have said sorry for anyone I have offended. If Christianity is about anything at all, it's about forgiveness. That's what I have to do as a cardinal priest – just forgive the wrongdoer and help them go back on to the right path.

"It's been quite a difficult, quite a humbling experience for me. It's very difficult for them [the men whose complaints led to his retirement]. That is why I have apologised for being a teacher who has not been able to live up to the teaching of the Church.

"We know what's against God's law. Consequently, we should try to live by God's law. I've apologised for my failures in that respect."

When asked about the Vatican investigation, O'Brien said: "It's up to those who are responsible in Rome for me to answer that sort of question."