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Justin Welby to be confirmed as Archbishop of Canterbury at St Paul's ceremony

The Right Reverend Justin Welby will officially take up the post of Archbishop of Canterbury at a service to be held at St Paul's.

The Confirmation of Election will take place at a ceremony on Monday 4 February at 12 noon, held under the dome of the Cathedral. At the end of the service, the former Bishop of Durham will have become The Most Reverend Justin Welby, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of All England and Metropolitan.

This ceremony forms part of the legal process by which the appointment of the new Archbishop of Canterbury is effected and will be attended by the Archbishop of York and the Bishops of Norwich, Leicester, Lincoln, Rochester, Winchester, Salisbury and London.

The service is a public occasion and all are welcome to attend. Please be seated by 11.30am.

The election of a Bishop is an important matter for the people of a diocese. The modern system of appointment allows for participation by the diocese (and in this case, the wider Province of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion) in the selection of the candidate to be their new Bishop, and Archbishop.

Since at least the fourth century it has been a fundamental principle that confirmation of an episcopal election on behalf of the wider Church is necessary. The election was undertaken in January by the Dean and Canons of Canterbury Cathedral. The legal significance of the act of confirmation cannot be overstated: it confers upon the new Archbishop ‘the care, government and administration of the spirituals’ of the bishopric.

It is the confirmation of his election which makes the Archbishop-elect into the Bishop of the diocese.

The wording used in the process of confirmation has a long history. Before the eighteenth century it was in Latin, but in about 1733 an English translation was introduced. At this service a somewhat modernised version is being used.

The Archbishop of York and his fellow bishops (as Commissaries of Her Majesty The Queen, the ‘Supreme Governor’ of the Church of England), sitting as a court of law, have to decide whether the procedural steps have been properly carried out so that the election of the new Archbishop can be confirmed.

There are several stages in the proceedings:
  • First, in accordance with statute law there is the direction from Her Majesty to the Commissaries in the form of Letters Patent calling them together to confirm the Archbishop’s election.
  • Secondly, the Advocate will introduce the Archbishop-Elect, and the Proctor will demonstrate to the Court that all the necessary procedures have been complied with and that no objections should be permitted to be heard.
  • Thirdly, the Archbishop-Elect will take the oath of allegiance and make his declaration of assent.
  • Fourthly and finally, the Archbishop of York shall read the sentence or decree of the Court, which confers upon the Archbishop of Canterbury spiritual jurisdiction over the diocese.