(WNS) -- Prime Minister David Cameron announced Friday that former oil executive Justin Welby, 56, a fast-rising priest with only a year's experience as a bishop, had been picked to succeed Rowan Williams as archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Church of England and spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans.
Welby, the 105th holder of a post that stretches back to the sixth century, will take over after Williams retires in December.
Welby said he felt privileged, and astonished, to be chosen to lead the church at "a time of spiritual hunger."
"It's something I never expected," Welby told reporters, saying he had been "overwhelmed and surprised" to be offered the job.
Cameron welcomed the selection of Welby, who was chosen by a church commission and formally approved by Queen Elizabeth II.
"The Church of England plays an important role in our society, not just as the established church, but in the provision of education, help for the deprived, and in furthering social justice," Cameron said. "I look forward to working with the Archbishop in all of these areas and I wish him success in his new role."
c. 2012 WORLD News Service. Used with permission.
Publication date: November 9, 2012