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Abuse scandals one of the main issues for Conclave

Abuse scandals within the Roman Catholic Church will be high on the agenda as Cardinals discuss and vote on the next Pope.

That's the verdict of former Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.

The 80 year-old's preparing to join the Conclave in Rome next month, but he won't vote because he's too old.

He's been holding a press conference this morning before he travels and outlined what he's looking for from the new leader of the Catholic Church:

The Conclave will meet at a time when the Catholic Church is facing criticisms over its handling of abuse scandals.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor also addressed the allegations surrounding the leader of Scottish Catholics Cardinal Keith O'Brien, which have been handed to the Pope.

Cardinal O'Brien stepped down yesterday as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh and is facing accusations of inappropriate behaviour dating back to the 1980s, which he strongly denies.

The Vatican accepted his resignation and he will not now travel to Rome to help elect the successor to Pope Benedict XVI.

On Saturday, the Observer newspaper reported that three priests and one former priest complained to the Pope's representative to Britain when Pope Benedict announced his resignation, of what they claimed was the Cardinal's inappropriate behaviour towards them in the 1980s. The former priest claims the cardinal made an inappropriate approach to him in 1980, after night prayers, when he was a seminarian at St Andrew's College in Drygrange. The complainant said he resigned as a priest when Cardinal O'Brien was first made a bishop. A second statement from another complainant said he was living in a parish when he was visited by the Cardinal and inappropriate contact took place between them. A third complainant alleges dealing with what he describes as "unwanted behaviour" by the Cardinal after some late-night drinking. And the fourth complainant claims the Cardinal used night prayers as an excuse for inappropriate contact. Cardinal O'Brien strongly denies the allegations.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor says he was 'saddened' by the resignation but the decision to step down was "up to his own conscience" and that it would be "inappropriate" for him to comment further:

Meanwhile, Catholics in Scotland are still without a leader. The Pope's expected to name an Apostolic Administrator to be named in the interim. The Cardinal's resignation also means there'll be no UK involvement in the election of the next Pope.

Catholic Commentator Father James Cassidy tells Premier's Des Busteed this isn't a major worry:

Thousands of Catholics are descending on Rome to bid farewell to Pope Benedict. He officially retires on Thursday and will take part in his final General Audience in St Peter's Square in Rome tomorrow.

These pilgrims have been telling Premier what the outgoing Pontiff means to them:

The Pope will step down on Thursday after nearly eight years as Pontiff, having announced his resignation on February 11th, citing health reasons.

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