The new archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, on
Thursday praised gay relationships and said he believed that one day
a woman would lead the Anglican Church, just hours before he was due
to be enthroned.
"You see gay relationships that are just stunning in the quality of the relationship," said the former oil executive in an interview with the BBC, adding that he had "particular friends where I recognise that and am deeply challenged by it."
But while he warned against homophobia, the 57-year-old said that he stuck by the Church's teaching that "marriage is a lifelong union of one man to one woman."
In a separate interview with Channel 5 News, he said he believed a woman would one day become archbishop, despite the November defeat of legislation which would have allowed women to become bishops.
Asked when he thought that might happen, he said: "Oh, I have no idea... when the right person turns up. But, yes, I think there certainly will."
As archbishop, Welby is the spiritual leader of the Church of England and also of the world's 77 million Anglicans.
He replaces Rowan Williams and faces the task of reconciling the liberal and conservative wings of the Church, who disagree violently over issues such as women clergy and homosexuality.
He was named archbishop in November after barely a year as bishop of Durham and after becoming a deacon only 20 years earlier. He has been praised for his sense of humour, sharp intellect and for risking his life in carrying out peace missions in Nigeria.
Prime Minister David Cameron, as well as senior representatives of major world religions are to be among the 2,000 guests at the ceremony in Canterbury Cathedral.
Sheila Watson, archdeacon of Canterbury, will become the first woman to carry out the enthronement.
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