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Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 12:54 GMT
Archbishop calls for religious harmony
Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Wales
Dr Rowan Williams is taking over as Anglican leader
The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Rowan Williams, is counting down the days until he takes on the biggest job in the Anglican church.

Next Monday, he will walk into St Paul's Cathedral in London as the representative of the Church in Wales and, after a short but legally important ceremony, will walk out as the head of 70 million Anglicans worldwide.

Dr Rowan Williams
Religious tolerance: Call by Dr Williams

He will be the first Welshman - and Welsh-speaker - in the job for more than 1,000 years.

But, until then, he is still tending his flock within the boundaries of Offa's Dyke.

On Wednesday, he is joining children from a Llanelli school to launch a project encouraging tolerance and understanding of different world faiths.

Pupils at Coedcae Comprehensive School have won a Prince's Trust Award of 15,000 to make and distribute bracelets called Peace Malas to schools across Wales.

The different coloured beads represent the differing religions across the globe.

Dr Williams, 52, is attending a ceremony at Cardiff's Temple of Peace to mark the project, which is part of the youngsters' GCSE in religious studies.

Desmond Tutu
Friend in high places: Desmond Tutu:

The struggle for religious and political tolerance is a subject close to the heart of the Most Reverend Rowan Williams, who will become the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury.

He was in New York just yards from the World Trade Center on 11 September and witnessed the tragedy of the terror attacks on downtown Manhattan.

Yet he has criticised Western policy since then, last month heading a 3,000-name petition signed by senior Anglican and Roman Catholic leaders questioning the morality and legality of war against Iraq.

Previously, he has described the military action in Afghanistan as "morally tainted", and the bombing campaign to oust the Taleban as morally equivalent to the terrorism it sought to defeat.

His views on social and religious matters seem set to ruffle feathers both in political circles and in the Anglican church as the pomp and ceremony of his installation at Canterbury begins.

What is the gorsedd of bards?
Created in 1792 as celebration of Welsh and Celtic heritage
Gorsedd is Welsh for high seat
Rituals look back to era when Celtic druids - religious professionals - led society
Compared to English honours system
Currently 1,300 members

Yet his intellectual rigour has set him apart from his contemporaries.

The former Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, noted he "towered head and shoulders" above his colleagues at the 1998 Lambeth Conference, the meeting staged each decade of all the worldwide Anglican church's bishops.

In August he shocked some evangelicals in the Church by becoming a druid at the National Eisteddfod celebration of Welsh culture in the tiny city of St David's, Pembrokeshire.

It saw him become a member of the highest of the three orders of the gorsedd of bards - a 1,300-strong circle of Wales' key cultural contributors.


Critics said the 210-year ceremony looked pagan but Dr Williams said he was "saddened" by the claim, seen as a pot-shot from the English establishment.

On Tuesday he began the process of his trek to Canterbury by formally laying down his crosier as Bishop of Monmouth.

The ceremony at St Woolos Cathedral in Newport saw him resign from the job he has held for 10 years to pave the way for a successor to be appointed by an electoral college of Welsh bishops next month.

A new Archbishop of Wales is to be appointed by a full electoral college of six bishops in April 2003.

Bishop Barry Morgan, Bishop of Llandaff, is favourite to succeed to the post which Dr Williams took on only two years ago.

The St Paul's Cathedral service sees Dr Williams installed as the new Archbishop of Canterbury in the eyes of UK law.

Meteoric rise

However, for the constitutionalists within the Church, he does not become the Archbishop of Canterbury until 17 December when he travels to Buckingham Palace to pay homage to the Queen.

Purists will claim he does not lead the church until 1600 GMT on 27 February when he is formally installed at Canterbury Cathedral.

Whichever way, it has been a meteoric rise for the man born into a Welsh-speaking family from the Swansea Valley.

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