THE next Archbishop of Canterbury praised Wearside as he made his first public appearance since being named as Dr Rowan William’s successor.
Bishop Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham, was at Sunderland Minster on Saturday, the day after worldwide media speculation about him taking on the Church of England’s top job was confirmed.
“This place has played a particular role in the highlights of my year in Durham,” he said.
“Coming here and praying with people here.”
Bishop Welby visited the Minster to launch the One for the Basket food parcel initiative – making up food parcels for the needy of the city – which is being led by faith communities on Wearside and supported by organisations including Sunderland Partnership and the council.
“This is the church expressing itself through what it does best, helping those in need,” he said.
“Expressing its love for people in need.
“When we first started seeing food distribution happening across the country it really concerns me, because I’ve grown up in a country where it doesn’t happen, it happens in other places, and it worries me.
“What I celebrate and what I rejoice in is that when something like that happens the church does what Jesus calls us to, which is to love and to serve.”
The archbishop-designate was back in Sunderland yesterday, at St Gabriel’s Church, Kayll Road, for a Remembrance Sunday sermon.
Bishop Welby, who will become the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, said he will try and keep his connections with the North East.
“We have got a good clergy here, and seeing what the church are doing here in a really demanding area, is a renewal of faith and optimism, and thinking yes, the church is going to grow.
“I’ll be back, because we have got a lot of friends here.
“I will continue to love and care for the place.
“I owe the region to pray for it, and hold it in my heart, my thoughts and my words, and to be an advocate and supporter for it as much as possible.”
The 56-year-old former oil industry executive said he found out he was being asked to become Archbishop of Canterbury on November 2.
“I picked up the phone and a voice said this is the Prime Minister’s Appointment Secretary, and asked if it was convenient to talk.
“I said yes, not entirely truthfully.
“They said I’m ringing to inform you the Prime Minister is writing you a letter to offer you the seat of Canterbury, and I said ‘oh no’,
“By the time I got the letter on Monday I had had time to calm down.
“Earlier in the year I said I have neither the experience nor the desire for the job, and I remain surprised.”