Nightly News   |  March 03, 2013

Former Catholic cardinal admits misdeeds

A former cardinal in Britain admits sexual impropriety as the Catholic Church prepares to choose the next pope, NBC’s Keir Simmons reports.

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>>> great britain to the vatican , a stunning admission from the man the leading catholic church official in great britain until he resigned last week. it comes on the eve of the first big meeting of cardinals in rome to elect the next pope. nbc's keir simmons is at the vatican with the latest. good evening to you. were good evening, lester . the timing is extraordinary as the cardinals and the catholic church gather at the vatican behind know choose a new pope, a former cardinal from britain issues new statement, effectively admitting sexual imp propriety. former cardinal keith o'brien was set to be one of those helping to choose the next pope but a week ago, he resigned as archbishop of scotland after several priest, and a former priest, accused him of inappropriate behavior. tonight, o'brien released a statement saying, in part, his sexual conduct has fall bean let standards expected and to those i have offended, i apologize and ask forgiveness.

>> it will have, in my judgment, no effect on the conclave. it should, however, have an effect on the next pontiff cat, which needs to consider how these kinds of situations and similar ones, can be avoided in the future.

>> reporter: the timing is terrible. a pope yet to be chosen, at 12 noon each sunday, the pope traditionally appears on his balcony above st. peter's square. not today. at this neighborhood church in rome , morning congregations gathered for sunday mass, the first without pope benedict . father dermot ryan is a man of catholic tradition. he hails from ireland and now preaches to italians. he believes change is inevitable but says it is not always welcome here.

>> most of the people here that i have talked to find it difficult to understand what has just happened that the pope is also a man and sometimes they would place him almost on a pedestal that's too high.

>> reporter: early tomorrow morning , the cardinals will gather to begin the search for a successor. there is much to discuss. under benedict, there was scandal and accusations of mismanagement. some cardinals may insist on discussion the report into leaked papal documents. for now, the faithful wait to find out who will be chosen and hope he will lead them out of these difficult times. the cardinals are expected to set a date for the conclave in the coming days. tonight, lester , there is little indication as to who the new pope will be. lester ?

>> keir simmons , thank you.