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Thursday, 20 June, 2002, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Church plays down Canterbury talk
Dr Rowan Williams
Dr Williams is seen as liberal and intellectual
The Church in Wales has been playing down newspaper reports which claim Archbishop of Wales Dr Rowan Williams is being lined up to take over at Canterbury.

The Times claims Dr Williams has been selected as first choice to replace Dr George Carey as Archbishop of Canterbury when he retires in October.

The newspaper says the Crown Appointments Commission, which met last week, placed Dr Williams at the top of its list.


He is one of those rare religious leaders who provoke awe and affection in equal measure

Mary Ann Sieghart

But a spokesman for Dr Williams said he believed it would be unlikely for someone outside the Church of England to be appointed to the post.

"The bottom line is that this is another speculative piece and it doesn't change anything yet," said the spokesman.

"While Dr Williams has been flattered by endorsements, he has said that it does require an extraordinary individual to fulfil the post."

The Crown Appointments Commission, which is made up of bishops, priests and lay Anglicans, narrows the field of candidates down to two names to present to the prime minister.

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey
The search is on for a replacement for George Carey

He can then choose from their suggestions or ask them to come up with an alternative.

According to The Times, Mr Blair is understood to be pleased with Dr Williams as first choice.

But the Church of England has dismissed the newspaper's report as "speculation".

"It must be speculation on the Times' part. There has been no announcement," said a spokesman.

"The Church Appointments Commission never disclose who's under consideration."

Gay priests

An outstanding theologian and intellectual, Dr Williams has been touted as the leading liberal for the post.

He is seen as an inspiring leader and the newspaper's columnist Mary Ann Sieghart says he is "one of those rare religious leaders who provoke awe and affection in equal measure".

He holds a number of controversial views including breaking legal ties to the state and he supports the ordination of gay priests.

Tony Blair
Mr Blair must choose between two candidates

He was also critical of the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, particularly the use of anti-personnel weapons.

However, according to The Times, his appointment would have wide support in Westminster.

A Labour party source told the paper: "There is huge enthusiasm both in the Parliamentary Labour Party and in Downing Street.

Dr Williams was born in Swansea in 1950 into a Welsh-speaking family from the Swansea Valley.

He went onto study at Christ's College, Cambridge, and at Christ Church and Wadham Colleges, Oxford.

In 1981, he married Jane Paul, and the couple have two children.

Bookies' favourite

He became Bishop of Monmouth in 1992 and has been the Archbishop of Wales since 2000.

Dr Williams has written a number of books on the history of theology and spirituality and published collections of articles and sermons, as well as a book of poems in 1994.

Other potential candidates named for the post include Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, and the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali.

And bookmakers William Hill make Dr Williams 9-1 joint favourite with the Bishop of Rochester.

Whoever succeeds Dr Carey will be the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury since 597AD.

No Welshman has taken on the role since 1,000AD but the records are not sufficiently clear about holders prior to that date who may have hailed from a more Celtic heritage.

The appointment is expected to be ratified by the prime minister within the next few weeks, The Times said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales's Gail Foley
"The Queen is said to have been impressed by Rowan Williams"

Latest stories

The contenders

Background
See also:

08 Jan 02 | England
08 Jan 02 | UK
23 Dec 01 | Wales
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