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Pope congratulates new Anglican leader

Expressing hope for closer relations between Anglicans and Roman Catholics, Pope John Paul II yesterday sent his congratulations to the Archbishop-elect of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams.

Williams was chosen to lead the world's Anglicans on Tuesday, succeeding the Most Rev. George Carey, 66, who is retiring on 31 October after 11 years.

"I am pleased to extend to you my congratulations and to assure you of my prayers," said the Holy Father, who is now on a trip to Canada, in a telegram sent to the archbishop and released by the Vatican on Wednesday.

"I have had the opportunity to know and work closely with your predecessors ... in the shared task of promoting understanding between the Anglican communion and the Catholic Church," the pontiff said. "I am confident that, with God's help, we can make progress along the path toward unity."

British Catholic leaders welcomed the announcement, with Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, calling Williams a "theologian of distinction, a man of deep spirituality and a gifted communicator."

The cardinal said on Tuesday: "He will, I have no doubt, prove to be a force for great good in this country and throughout the Christian world."

Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth, England, chairman of the English and Welsh bishops' Committee for Mission and Unity, said: "Archbishop Williams will be a challenging voice both within the Anglican Communion and for all those who work for the unity of Christ's church from other denominations.

Meanwhile Australia's Anglican Primate Archbishop Peter Carnley of Perth said he's "absolutely delighted" with the appointment, telling the ABC that he's "a theologian of very considerable stature, is a creative thinker, not just a kind of mundane thinker".

Sydney's Archbishop Peter Jensen was less excited by the appointment. He issued a statement expressing relief that the Anglican communion will still have a leader who upholds "the biblical view of such significant Christian doctrines as the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ", but asked his Sydney faithful to pray that Williams will follow the Bible, especially on marriage and the family.

Anglican leader doesn't hold back on thorny issues (Reuters)
Pope Congratulates Anglican Leader (AP)
Church leaders welcome announcement of new archbishop of Canterbury (CNS)
Welshman Chosen to Lead the Anglicans: Opposes Abortion, Wants to See Women Ordained (Zenit)
Rowan Williams named Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC Radio National, Religion Report)
Rowan Williams new Anglican Archbishop (ABC Radio, AM)
Jensen lukewarm on Anglican head (AAP)
Comment from Archbishop Jensen on the appointment of Dr Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury (Anglican Media Sydney)

AP/AP/ABC 'AM'/Anglican Media Sydney

25 Jul 2002