Archbishop front-runner was once a Catholic

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The man widely tipped to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury was a Roman Catholic in his youth, the Church of England said today.

The Bishop of Rochester, the Right Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, was first a member of the Catholic church before switching to Anglican. He is the bookmakers' favourite to take over from Dr George Carey when the Archbishop steps down last this year.

The Church of England was today quick to dismiss any controversy surrounding the bishop's earlier switch. A spokeswoman said: "It is wholly unremarkable that someone has started on their path as a Roman Catholic and later moved to the Anglican church.

"There are many people in the church who have moved from one to the other. It is just that the bishop happens to be a prominent member of the Anglican Church."