The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, paid tribute to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, following the announcement today that the Anglican leader is to step down to be Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.
Archbishop Nichols said: 'In the last three years I have grown to appreciate more and more the fine qualities of Archbishop Rowan: his kindness, his sharp intellect, his dedication to striving for harmony between peoples, especially within the Christian family, his courage and his friendship. These will be much missed when he steps down from his demanding office in December. I will miss him.
'I thank him for all the service he has given, recalling particularly his warm welcome to Pope Benedict at Lambeth Palace, a visit reciprocated with similar joy just last week.
Dr Williams said in a statement on his website this morning that he has accepted the position of Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge with effect from January 2013. He will therefore be stepping down from the office of Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of December 2012.
Dr Williams' intentions have been conveyed to The Queen, who is Supreme Governor of the Church of England and who formally appoints the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Dr Williams, who was appointed the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002, said today: 'It has been an immense privilege to serve as Archbishop of Canterbury over the past decade, and moving on has not been an easy decision. During the time remaining there is much to do, and I ask your prayers and support in this period and beyond.
'I am abidingly grateful to all those friends and colleagues who have so generously supported Jane and myself in these years, and all the many diverse parishes and communities in the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion that have brought vision, hope and excitement to my own ministry. I look forward, with that same support and inspiration, to continuing to serve the Church's mission and witness as best I can in the years ahead.'
Dr Williams will continue to carry out all the duties of the leading the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, until the end of the year. The Crown Nominations Commission will consider in due course the selection of a successor.
Above: Dr Williams celebrates a Eucharist at the Anglican church in Rome last Sunday. Photo: CNS photo/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo