Cardinal Keith O'Brien's temporary successor has told a congregation there is little doubt the credibility and moral authority of the Catholic Church in Scotland has been "dealt a serious blow".
Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, who is the Archbishop of Glasgow and apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of St Andrew's and Edinburgh, broke the Church's silence over Cardinal O'Brien's behaviour at a pre-scheduled Lent Mass in Glasgow.
Cardinal O'Brien is to face a Vatican inquiry after admitting that his sexual conduct "had fallen beneath the standards" expected of him during his almost 50-year career.
Speaking at the ceremony at St Andrew's Cathedral, Archbishop Tartaglia said: "This is a sad moment for the Church in our country. The events around Cardinal O'Brien, his resignation, his statement of yesterday, have left us all very sad for everyone involved and for the Church.
"Many reproaches have been aimed at the Church and at individuals over this matter. The most stinging charge which has been levelled against us in this matter is hypocrisy, and for obvious reasons. I think there is little doubt that the credibility and moral authority of the Catholic Church in Scotland has been dealt a serious blow, and we will need to come to terms with that."
Archbishop Tartaglia was named temporary successor to Cardinal O'Brien following his resignation last week, amid allegations of "inappropriate" behaviour towards fellow priests.
The cardinal originally denied the allegations, but on Sunday he shocked the Roman Catholic community when he indicated that he would not contest claims against him and said he intended to retire permanently from the public life of the Church.
At Monday night's Mass, Archbishop Tartaglia said: "I have been asked to administer the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh until a new Archbishop is appointed, and I will do my very best to help in this difficult time. So what can I say to offer us hope? Well, in the first place, a new Pope will be elected in the coming weeks, and that will certainly be a wonderful moment of hope and joy for the Church throughout the world, for since Pope Benedict announced his resignation and since he stepped down, we sensed the absence of Peter among us.
"And this sad time for the Catholic Church in Scotland will also pass. We will endure it with prayer and patience and hope. We will not forget for a long time, but we will heal and we will carry on. We will draw what conclusions and lessons we can from it and, if anything, we will learn to trust even more fully in Jesus Christ who is alone the Lord of the Church."
He added: "As for the Church's mission in our country, yes our credibility and moral authority have been undermined. It will take time, perhaps a long time to recover these intangible but important realities. But we cannot be defeatist. The answer to this sad episode is not to throw in the towel. We need, rather, to renew our faithfulness to Jesus Christ and to go about our business humbly."