The next Archbishop of Canterbury is likely to be the head of the Anglican Church in Wales, Dr Rowan Williams.
Dr Williams, 52, the Archbishop of Wales, is the Church's choice to take over from Dr George Carey when he retires at the end of October, according to reports last night.
He is said to be the first of two names given to Downing Street by the Crown Appointments Commission for ratification by Tony Blair. The Prime Minister can choose either of the names but conventionally follows the preference of the Commission, and Mr Blair is thought to be personally impressed by Dr Williams.
Last night Downing Street and the Church of England did not deny the reports in The Times, saying only that it was too early for an announcement.
If Dr Williams' name is approved by Downing Street and rubber-stamped by the Queen, he will be the first Archbishop to come from outside England since the Reformation. He has been a favourite to become the 104th Archbishop since Dr Carey announced his retirement in January, and although he has played down his candidature, senior figures in the Church have publicly backed him.
Last week Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the former primate of southern Africa, said he towered above the other candidates and failure to appoint him would be a missed opportunity for the Anglican church worldwide.
Dr Williams is regarded as the Church's leading theologian as well as being a charismatic leader unafraid to risk alienating conservative factions with liberal views. A supporter of women and homosexual priests, he recently acknowledged that he ordained a man he knew to be gay.
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