THE new Archbishop of Canterbury said he stands by the Church of England’s criticism of legislation to introduce gay marriage, as he was formally confirmed in office.
The former Dean of Liverpool, Most Rev Justin Welby said he had "no idea" how today’s vote by MPs would go on same-sex marriage, but he stood by his statement made after his appointment was announced in November backing the Church of England bishops over the issue.
He said: "I have no idea how the vote will go, so I am not going to get into hypothetical questions."I stand, as I have always stood over the last few months, with the statement I made at the announcement of my appointment, which is that I support the Church of England’s position on this."
"We have made many statements about this and I stick with that."
In his statement in November, Mr Welby said he backed the Church of England bishops’ statement which was highly critical of Government proposals to introduce gay marriage.
He also warned that there must be "no truck" with any form of homophobia in any part of the Church.
His remarks were made after he was formally confirmed in office as the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the 77-million strong Anglican Communion in a ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral yesterday.
The 57-year-old father of five said he was looking forward to his new role "hugely" but also felt challenged and awed by it.
He said: "I feel very challenged and very awed by it, it is an enormous privilege and my experience is to trust in the grace of God, not in your own abilities."
Asked how he and his family were settling into Lambeth Palace, the former Bishop of Durham joked: "Um... getting lost."
Mr Welby said prayer would be his first priority on taking up office.
"It is praying for the Anglican Communion, for some of the difficult situations that we are facing in this country generally - not just in the Church but across the country and across the globe," he said.
Mr Welby was confirmed as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury at a service under the dome of the cathedral attended by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, and seven other senior Church of England bishops.
The ancient ceremony forms part of the legal process for appointing a new Archbishop of Canterbury and will be followed by Mr Welby’s enthronement at Canterbury Cathedral next month.
Mr Welby succeeds Rowan Williams, who left after a decade in office at the end of December to take up a new post as master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.
Dr Sentamu, who preached at the service, said: "Archbishop Justin Welby brings many gifts to the office of Archbishop of Canterbury.
"He has my prayers and my support as he assumes this challenging role in the service of the Church of England and of the Anglican Communion worldwide."
During the ceremony, the archbishop took the oath of allegiance to the Queen and made a formal written declaration of assent to his election as Archbishop of Canterbury.
The service heard prayers for the archbishop, his wife Caroline and their five children, that they may find "joy" in their new home.
The ceremony was attended by the bishops of Norwich, Leicester, Lincoln, Rochester, Winchester, Salisbury and London.
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In his sermon, Dr Sentamu warned the new Archbishop he would lead the Church in an age of selfishness and individualism.
"Ours is really the most self-regarding culture in many centuries," he told him.
"We make choices as individuals, we have rights as individuals - if it works for you, do it .. if it no longer works for you throw it away and go on to the next thing.
"Never was the human universe so large yet so small.
"Never was a culture so written in the first person singular.
"In the words of the late George Harrison, ’I me, mine’."
Archbishop Welby will be enthroned at a service in Canterbury Cathedral on March 21.