March 21 (Reuters) – The new spiritual leader of the world’s Anglicans was enthroned by a female cleric on Thursday, taking the helm at a time when the troubled church risks tearing itself apart over gay marriage and women bishops.
In a colourful ceremony featuring African dancers, Punjabi music and Anglican hymns, Justin Welby, 57, officially became the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury [—going back well before the split with Rome –] under the gothic arches of Britain’s 900-year-old Canterbury Cathedral in front of a congregation that included heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, Prime Minister David Cameron and other establishment figures.
For the first time in the Christian church’s history, the priest who placed him on the diocesan throne in Canterbury – the mother church of the Church of England and of the Anglican Communion – was a woman, Archdeacon of Canterbury Sheila Watson.
Another, male, priest then installed Welby in the chair of St. Augustine, marking his inauguration as Primate of All England and spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Welby, who is against gay marriage but favours the ordination of women as bishops, now faces a tough balancing act to keep the 80 million-strong Anglican Communion together.
Pope Francis sent a message from the Vatican:
”Please be assured of my prayers as you take up your new responsibilities, and I ask you to pray for me as I respond to the new call that the Lord has addressed to me," he said.
"I look forward to meeting you in the near future, and to continuing the warm fraternal relations that our predecessors enjoyed."
Justin Welby Enthroned As Archbishop Of Canterbury And Leader Anglican Communion (PHOTOS) (VIDEO)