THE Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, welcomed the appointment of Justin Welby, one of his former students, as the new Archbishop of Canterbury.

Bishop Justin will become the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury when he succeeds Dr Rowan Williams, who is retiring next month after 10 years in the role.

The new archbishop is a former oil executive and has been Bishop of Durham for only a year.

When Bishop John was Warden of Cranmer Hall, a theological training college in Durham, the Rt Rev Welby, 56, was one of his students.

Bishop John said: “The Bishop of Durham is an excellent choice as the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

“I have known him since he was a student at theological college and it was obvious then that he had qualities of mind and heart that would fit him for higher office.

“His experience in the city, in reconciliation in Africa, and in demanding roles in Coventry, Liverpool and Durham make him very well equipped for this new role.

“At the same time, this is a massive responsibility and Bishop Justin can be assured of our prayers and practical support as he makes the momentous journey south.”

Following his appointment, the Rt Rev Welby said he was “utterly optimistic” about the future of the Church of England in spite of the “hard issues” it faced over women bishops and the issue of sexuality.

He said: “To be nominated to this post is both astonishing and exciting. It is something I never expected.

“It is exciting because we are at one of those rare points where the tide of events is turning, and the church nationally, including the Church of England, has great opportunities to match its very great but often hidden strengths.”