DESPITE having only a few hundred thousand Catholics in a global population of 1.2 billion, the Pope's resignation will have an impact in Scotland in the short to medium term.

The leader of Scotland's Catholics, Cardinal Keith O'Brien will be part of the council of 120 cardinals which aims to elect a new Pope before Easter. It will be the second time Cardinal O'Brien will have taken part in the consistory, having been part of the process which led to Benedict XVI's election in 2005.

He become only the second resident Scottish cardinal since the Restoration of the Scottish hierarchy in 1878 to take part in two conclaves.

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But the timing of Benedict's retirement is likely to impact on Cardinal O'Brien's hope to stand down immediately after his 75th birthday on March 17.

Sources suggest signing off the Cardinal's retirement, in part due to ill-health, is unlikely to be top of the new Pope's 'to do' list.

With no bishops expected to be appointed anywhere in the world for several weeks, there will be a knock-on in Scotland with several Diocese awaiting new leadership.

One source said: "There will be a delay in the process but it won't dramatically change the choice of who will be appointed or the information gathering."

While recent appointments including Archbishop Philip Tartaglia and Bishop Hugh Gilbert in Aberdeen have been called 'Benedict's men', there is unlikely to be a major change in the style or tone of those installed in the months ahead.

Hugh McLoughlin, a commentator of affairs of the Scottish Catholic Church, said: "The choice is largely that of the Papal Nuncio to the UK, Archbishop Menini, and he's unlikely to change his stance on things with a new Pope."

While senior Cardinals with Vatican governance roles, the Curia, will be stood down, the tier beneath them will stay. The English translator to the Pope – Monsignor Leo Cushley, who is from Uddingston in South Lanarkshire – will remain.