The new archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual leader of the world's Anglicans, has been formally enthroned by a female cleric. The archbishop faces a church divided over the issues of gay marriage and women bishops.
Justin Welby, the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, was enthroned on Thursday to serve as head of the Church of England and spiritual leader of the world's 77 million-strong Anglican Communion.
In a colorful ceremony that featured African dancers, Punjabi music and Anglican hymns, Welby was enthroned by Archdeacon of Canterbury Sheila Watson, the first woman priest to do so in the church's history.
In his sermon, Welby said he wanted to foster closer ties with other Christians and heal splits within the Anglican Communion.
"The Church transforms society when it takes the risks of renewal in prayer, of reconciliation and of confident declaration of the good news of Jesus Christ," he said.
"There is every possible reason for optimism about the future of Christian faith in our world and in this country. Optimism does not come from us, but because to us and to all people, Jesus comes and says, 'Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid'."
Welby, who is against gay marriage but is in favor of women as bishops, must now balance between liberal clerics in the United States and Britain who are at odds with conservatives in Africa and elsewhere over those issues.
The ceremony, which was held in Britain's 900-year-old Canterbury Cathedral, was attended by 2,000 guests that included heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, Prime Minister David Cameron and other public figures.
Welby, 57, is married with five children and rose to the top of the oil industry before giving it up to become a priest.
Pope Francis, who was formally installed as head of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics about a week ago, sent Welby a message congratulating Welby and calling for a meeting in the near future.
"Please be assured of my prayers as you take up your new responsibilities," the pope said.
The Anglican church now counts about 26 million baptised members, but says only about a million of them attend services every Sunday.
hc/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP)