Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien, accused of sexual misconduct, who will lose the "rights and privileges" of his clerical office but be allowed to retain his title.

O'Brien, 77, resigned as Archbishop of St. Andrews in 2013 in the wake of allegations that he had made sexual advances on a number of priests. Francis subsequently asked O'Brien to undertake "a period of prayer" but also launched an investigation into the charges.

On Friday, the Vatican announced that "The Holy Father has accepted the resignation of the rights and privileges of a cardinal ... presented by his eminence Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O'Brien, archbishop emeritus of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, after a long period of prayer."

Speaking to journalists, Vatican spokesman Father Ciro Benedettini said the resignation was "not a punishment resulting from a process" but came from O'Brien himself.

While O'Brien "will no longer be invited to attend consistories and other gatherings of cardinals, including an eventual conclave for the election of a new pope, Benedettini said, he retains his faculties as a priest and retired bishop," according to The National Catholic Reporter.

The Washington Post writes:

"Some well-known church-watchers said the culmination of the case showed both Francis's desire to restore faith in church accountability and his emphasis on mercy by letting the cardinal keep his title."'It's incredibly significant that a cardinal has been stripped of his "rights and privileges"... it shows that the pope is serious about removing anyone accused of sexual abuse and harassment — even someone from the highest echelons of the church — from ministry. To me, it's also long overdue,' said the Rev. James Martin, a U.S. Jesuit who writes on Catholicism."Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.