Three priests and an ex-priest whose allegations against Cardinal Keith O'Brien led to his resignation a year ago are appealing directly to the Pope to intervene in the case.

His successor as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Leo Cushley, has insisted that only the Vatican can initiate an inquiry into O'Brien's sexual behaviour, which lie at the centre of the allegations, but he has agreed to an investigation into his financial actions.

Yesterday, it was reported that the former priest and three priests felt that the Catholic Church had blocked investigation into O'Brien's behaviour.

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One said: "They have passed the buck, misrepresented the truth... and having asked for our trust and co-operation, shamelessly procrastinated and hidden behind a veneer of diplomacy and charm.

"I want to ask Pope Francis, can you sort this out?"

Archbishop Cushley has insisted he cannot take action himself over allegations, but would pass requests to the Pope.

A spokesman for Archbishop Cushley said: "The matter remains one which is subject to a decision by the Holy See alone.

"Archbishop Cushley has listened to the parties concerned and will transmit any information provided to him to the Holy See.

"Archbishop Cushley will assist in any way he can in order to help bring a just and equitable conclusion to the matter for all involved.

"Any decision on further action will be a matter for the Holy See as jurisdiction in the matter rests with the Pope."

Last week the Archbishop travelled to Rome, and assured the complainants that their requests would be personally delivered.