SCOTLAND'S most senior Catholic has been forced to cancel all public engagements for the coming weeks because of ill-health.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien was due to be a guest at a live interview on Thursday but it has emerged that due to his illness he is unable to travel from his Edinburgh home to the Falkirk event.

Sources have told The Herald the cardinal's health issues are unrelated to cardio problems he has had in recent years.

Loading article content

It is understood he has suffered from gout for a number of years and this has led to further complications.

Recent reports have highlighted a sharp increase in people attending hospital with the condition, rising by 80% in the past decade.

A type of arthritis, gout is incredibly painful due to needle-shaped crystals, which form in and around joints, particularly the big toe, causing inflammation.

There are many risk factors for the disease today, including alcohol, diet, obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and it is even sometimes triggered by physical trauma or surgery.

Valerie Maclennan, host of the Live Theatre Interview Shows, In Conversation With, which was due to feature Cardinal O'Brien on Thursday, said: "I was contacted by the Catholic media office in Glasgow to inform me the cardinal is currently unwell and under doctor's orders to rest and avoid travel.

"He has cancelled all public engagements for the coming weeks. I wanted to let people know in advance, to avoid travelling to the venue and being disappointed on the evening."