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The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales suggested his retirement was imminent when he attended Mass in Borehamwood on Sunday.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, the guest of honour at St Teresa's Catholic Church, in Shenley Road, told churchgoers he was soon expecting to retire.

The cardinal, 77, has already written to the Vatican to announce his desire to step down but was asked by Pope Benedict XVI to remain in the position until further notice.

The British ambassador to the Vatican is currently making a shortlist of possible successors and a replacement could be announced in just a few months.

Cardinal Murphy O'Connor had attended St Theresa's Sunday Mass to give his blessing to the new partnership between St Teresa's Church and Saints John Fisher and Thomas More Church, in Rossington Avenue, Borehamwood. Both are now under the care of parish priest Father Michael Daley.

The parishioners were all in high spirits and Cardinal Murphy O'Connor was greeted with rapturous laughter after asking a group of children if they knew who he was. One of the children helpfully suggested: "Are you the Pope?"