LEAVING Durham will be one of the hardest things about becoming Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby said today (Friday, November 9), and he vowed to continue to do everything he could to support the area.

The Bishop of Durham, who was officially unveiled as the successor to Dr Rowan Williams this morning, said his appointment to lead the Anglican Church and its 77 million Christians worldwide was “astonishing and exciting”.

And he told a press conference at Lambeth Palace: “One of the hardest things will be to leave Durham.

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“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 lead 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 Archbishop designate, 56, said he never expected to be chosen for the post and it was a massive privilege.

He thanked Dr Williams, who will step down in December, saying he had deep love for Jesus Christ and would be remembered as “one of the greatest” Archbishops.

He talked about his church career in Nuneaton, Southam, Coventry and Liverpool and said he was “utterly optimistic” about the church’s future.

But the London-born old Etonian did not duck the big issues he will face in his new role, saying he would be voting in favour of the ordination of women bishops at General Synod and, on same-sex marriage, pledged to examine his own thinking “carefully and prayerfully”.

His appearance today instantly won acclaim from first-time observers, who were impressed with his self-depracating humour and down-to-earth style.

This afternoon, he tweeted: “Just heard of protest call to Lambeth at appointment of a woman as ABC. Am spelt Justin, not Justine. No agenda, just a matter of fact.”

His appointment was welcomed by leading figures from the church and beyond.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said his successor had an extraordinary range of skills and was a person of grace, patience, wisdom and humour who would bring rich pastoral experience and a keen sense of international priorities to the role.

Prime Minister David Cameron wished him every success, saying he had been the overwhelming choice and having someone with experience of business would bring a great breath of fresh air to the Church.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who had been early favourite for the job, said Bishop Welby had many gifts and unique experience and he could count on his full support in “this daunting office”.

However, he criticised some coverage of the appointment process, saying “it is a relief that the rumour mill which has been grinding out misinformation has now ground to a halt”.

The Rt Rev Mark Bryant, Bishop of Jarrow, said his appointment was deeply sad for the North-East but fantastic news for the church and Durham had to let him go so his talents could be used for its wider good.

The married father-of-five, who was only installed as Bishop of Durham a year ago, will formally become the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury in a service at Canterbury Cathedral on March 21, 2013.