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Williams: Church is great treasure

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, hailed the Church of England as a "great treasure" as he announced he is stepping down from his post after a decade in office.

The 61-year-old denied rows over homosexuality within the Anglican Communion had overshadowed his reign but admitted the job involved "immense demands".

He told the Press Association: "I would like the successor that God would like. I think that it is a job of immense demands and I would hope that my successor has the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros really.

"But he will, I think, have to look with positive, hopeful eyes on a Church which, for all its problems, is still for so many people a place to which they resort in times of need and crisis, a place to which they look for inspiration. I think the Church of England is a great treasure."

Dr Williams's remarks came as it was announced he will leave his post at the end of December in time to start a new role as Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge next January. His departure marks a return to academic life after more than 20 years as a bishop and archbishop.

Dr Williams, previously a professor of divinity at Oxford University, was first consecrated bishop of Monmouth in 1991 and elected archbishop of Wales in 1999. He was confirmed as 104th Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual leader of the 77 million-strong Anglican Communion in December 2002 and enthroned in February the following year.

Dr Williams said: "It has been an enormous privilege being Archbishop of Canterbury. You are given access to the life of churches worldwide in a really unique way. It is not just travelling abroad of course. Every year I make two or three visits to dioceses in England and just spend three or four days visiting parishes, schools and so forth.

"The privilege is that you are taken into the heart of the local church's life for a few days. You see what really matters to people in parishes, schools and prisons and hospices and so forth. I think there must be very few jobs where you have quite that degree of open doors for you." His departure would give his successor time to prepare for the next Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops from around the world in 2018, he said.

Dr Williams said he believed there was still "plenty of goodwill" to make "things work" in the General Synod over women bishops. And he denied he would be pleased to be "free at last" from long-running battles between liberals and traditionalists over the issue of gay people within the Anglican Communion.

He said: "Crisis management is never a favourite activity, I have to admit, but it is not as if that has overshadowed everything. It has certainly been a major nuisance. But in every job that you are in there are controversies and conflicts and this one isn't going to go away in a hurry. I can't say that it is a great sense of free at last."

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