Pope allows early conclave after resignation shock

Amid news of the U.K.'s only cardinal resigning for "inappropriate" conduct, Benedict XVI changed Church law to let the conclave meet early to choose his successor.

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict has changed Catholic Church law to allow a successor to be elected early, the Vatican said Monday, as a senior cleric's resignation added to the sense of an institution in crisis.

With just four days left before he steps down, the pope accepted the resignation of Britain's only cardinal elector, Keith O'Brien, after allegations he behaved inappropriately with other priests.

O'Brien, who retains the title of cardinal, denied the allegations and said he was stepping down as archbishop of Edinburgh for health reasons. He said he would not attend the conclave that will select a new pontiff because he did not want media attention to be focused on himself.

RELATED: UK's cardinal resigns amid criticism

His resignation came as the Vatican continues to resist calls by some Catholics to stop other cardinals tainted by sex scandals from taking part.

With the Italian media speculating about conspiracies inside the Vatican that pushed Benedict to resign, the pope's spokesman said a report into leaked papal documents would remain confidential and be shown only to the next pontiff.

The Vatican has accused the Italian media, some of which have called for the "Vatileaks" report to be made public, of spreading "false and damaging" rumors in an attempt to influence the cardinals as they head to Rome for the conclave.

Reporting by Philip Pullella, writing by Robin Pomeroy

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