THE Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Justin Welby, has been confirmed as the new Archbishop of Canterbury - and immediately pledged to continue to support the Durham Diocese. 

The former oil industry executive has become the 105th holder of the post, replacing Rowan Williams.

No 10 made the unusual move of announcing the appointment on social networking site Twitter stating: "Downing Street is pleased to announce the appointment of Justin Welby as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury."

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Speaking at a press conference in London, he said it was excited by his new role, and added: "I believe that 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.

"I feel a massive sense of privilege at being one of those responsible for the leadership of the church in a time of spiritual hunger, when our network of parishes and churches and schools and above all people means that we are facing the toughest issues in the toughest place.

“One of the hardest things will be to leave Durham. I work with a group of wonderful senior colleagues and remarkable clergy and lay people.

"It is an astonishing part of the country, one which as a family we were greatly looking forward to living in for many years.

"The people are direct, inspiring and wonderfully friendly. In many ways it has been the ancient cradle of British Christianity. It is a place of opportunity and an even greater future than its past.

"The work we have started in Durham will be continued by the team led by the Bishop of Jarrow and I want to add my thanks to him for once again agreeing to step-in and hold the fort whilst my successor is found.

"I will continue to do all I can to support the area.”

The Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham, said: “We are exceedingly sorry to be losing him from the North-East just when he has begun to exercise such a valued ministry here.

“He has been a great champion for this region in the short time he has been with us, particularly in relation to its deprived communities and economic hardship.

“But we recognise a higher calling and as we express our gratitude, we promise him, Caroline and their family our continuing support, affection and prayer as they leave Durham for Canterbury.”

The Bishop will preside and preach at this year's principal Christmas services, and there will be a service of farewell towards the end of January or early February.