THE leading Catholic cleric announced as the successor to shamed Cardinal Keith O'Brien has confirmed he has had meetings with the Pope over the role he inherits next month.

Monsignor Leo Cushley, the Archbishop-elect of St Andrews and Edinburgh, said he held talks last Tuesday with Pope Francis over the situation facing the Archdiocese since Cardinal O'Brien was forced to resign after allegations of abuse and admitting decades of sexual behaviour with other clerics earlier this year.

Mgr Cushley, a Vatican diplomat unveiled as Cardinal O'Brien's successor last month, had said he had not spoken with the Pontiff about the situation despite working closely with both him and Benedict in Rome.

But the former Diocese of Motherwell parish said of his meeting with Pope Francis: "It was encouraging and very heartening to learn how well the Holy Father knows and appreciates the situation of the Archdiocese and its priests and people.

"He promised willingly to pray for all of us and at the end of a very cordial meeting asked for our prayers in return, which I promised him in everyone's name."

Some of the allegations made against Cardinal O'Brien came from serving priests within the Archdiocese, fuelling speculation and rumour around their identity, with other members of the clergy in the east of the country said to have been involved in the events leading up to his downfall.

There are also some divisions within the Catholic community over the scandal, with Cardinal O'Brien still enjoying the support of congregations around Dunbar and North Berwick, where he had hoped to retire to.

Mgr Cushley also revealed the names of the bishops who will be the traditional three principal consecrators at his ordination next month. They are Cardinal James Harvey, who was Mgr Cushley's first superior in the Secretariat of State and is a long-time colleague in the diplomatic service. Cardinal Harvey, who is from Wisconsin in USA, will be the principal consecrator and celebrant of the mass. He also worked as a deacon in a parish Edinburgh in the summer of 1974.

Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the Papal Nuncio to Great Britain, the Pope's representative in the UK, will also play a key role, along with Philip Tartaglia, Archbishop of Glasgow, in his capacity as Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh. Mgr Cushley, who was born in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, will be ordained as Archbishop in St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh, on September 21.

He was announced as his successor, Mgr Cushley said he had very little ­knowledge about Cardinal O'Brien's situation. While denying the church was at a low ebb, he said people within the Archdiocese were anxious to move on from the scandal.