Archbishop of Canterbury

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The Archbishop of Canterbury is the chief bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group of Christians in the world.

The current archbishop is the Most Reverend Rowan Williams. He is the 104th in a line that goes back more than 1400 years to St. Augustine of Canterbury, the "Apostle to the English", who founded the Catholic Church in England in the year 597. From the time of St Augustine until the 16th century, the Archbishops of Canterbury were in full communion with the See of Rome and thus received the pallium. During the English Reformation the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church, at first temporarily under Henry VIII and Edward VI and later permanently during the reign of Elizabeth I.

In the Middle Ages there was considerable variation in the methods of nomination of the Archbishop of Canterbury and other bishops. At various times the choice was made by the canons of Canterbury Cathedral, the King of England, or the Pope. Since the English Reformation, the Church of England has been more explicitly a state church and the choice is legally that of the British crown; today it is made in the name of the Sovereign by the Prime Minister, from a shortlist of two selected by an ad hoc committee called the Crown Nominations Commission.


Present roles and status

Today the archbishop fills four main roles:[1]

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