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Friday, 19 July, 2002, 13:04 GMT 14:04 UK
'Pagan' Archbishop claims dismissed
Dr Rowan Williams
Dr Williams will be inducted as an honorary druid
The induction of the Archbishop of Wales as a "pagan" druid at the National Eisteddfod next month has prompted criticism from the evangelical wing of the Church of England.

It is widely expected that Dr Rowan Williams will be announced as the successor to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey.

Ron Davies, Former Welsh Secretary
Ron Davies: Honorary druid
But Dr Williams' induction as an honorary druid into the Gorsedd of Bards - whose numbers include the Queen, artists, musicians and clergymen - has received veiled criticism from traditionalists in England.

His liberal views have not made him first choice for the Canterbury post in some quarters.

Links with druids have upset the evangelical group Reform, which told The Times newspaper: "christian leaders should concentrate on...the christian faith...rather than dabbling in other things." Dr Williams recently acknowledged he had ordained a man he knew to be a practicing homosexual.

But he remains the favourite to succeed Dr Carey, who has announced he will retire from the post in October 2002.

He is expected to be confirmed in the role by Prime Minister Tony Blair next week.

Other potential candidates to succeed Dr Carey include the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, and the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali.


Archbishop Rowan is proud to have been honoured in this way

Spokesman, Archbishop of Wales

If Dr Williams is made Archbishop of Canterbury he would be the first Welshman to hold the position for at least 1,000 years.

Dr Williams will be inducted into the Gorsedd at the National Eisteddfod at St David's, Pembrokeshire, in August.

The Gorsedd convenes at the site of the National Eisteddfod each year, at a circle of stones - akin to Stonehenge - but members have dismissed any links to ancient druids.

Dr Williams is eligible to become an honorary druid as a Welsh speaker and he will join other clergymen including the retired Roman Catholic Bishop of Menevia, the Right Reverend David Mullins.

A spokesman for Dr Williams said the Gorsedd was nothing like the pagan group critics made it out to be. "Both the eisteddfod and Gorsedd are celebrations of Welsh culture.

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey
Dr Carey has announced he is to retire

"There is nothing in them which is at all anti-christian and Archbishop Rowan is proud to have been honoured in this way."

Other prominent honorary druids include opera star Bryn Terfel, England cricketer Robert Croft, former Labour Leader in the Lords, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos and ex-Welsh rugby stars Gareth Edwards and Ray Gravel.

Former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies was inducted into the Gorsedd in 1998.

Celtic culture

According to the National Eisteddfod website, the Gorsedd of Bards was invented by Iolo Morganwg, an eccentric scholars, in 1792, at a ceremony in Primrose Hill, London.

He intended for people to know the Welsh were the direct descendants of Celtic culture and heritage.

The Gorsedd made made its first appearance at the Eisteddfod in Carmarthen in 1819.

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Rt Rev David Mullins, former Bishop of Menevia
"The Gorsedd has nothing at all to do with ancient druidism"
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