THE Archbishop of York has led tributes to his predecessor John Habgood, who died on Wednesday aged 91.

Lord Habgood, who was Archbishop of York and second in the Church of England hierarchy for 12 years until 1995, was the most outspoken and effective ecclesiastical figure of his age.

Dr John Sentamu said: "His towering presence, physical, intellectual, and spiritual, was a gift to all who knew him.

"My prayers are with his family at this time. May he rest in peace, and rise in glory."

The Northern Echo:

Queen Elizabeth II inside York Minster with the Very Rev John Southgate, Dean of York (left) and the Archbishop of York Dr John Habgood. Picture: PA

He went on: "As a hugely distinguished scientist, theologian and philosopher, Archbishop Habgood's faith in Christ gave him a particular perspective and a persuasive witness both to church and nation for his time. His many books simplified big and complex questions, revealing an incredibly perceptive intellect.

"I'm very glad to have confirmed his grandchildren and dedicated a room in his honour at Bishopthorpe Palace."

Lord Habgood was a key exponent of Christian faith and morals in a secular age.

With his scientific background, he regarded many of the stories on which Christian doctrines are based as being true allegorically rather than literally.

As a scientist he had difficulty in asserting the literal truth of supernatural events said to have occurred long ago, in times even more credulous than today.

And his sensitive handling of the situation created by the ordination of women - in which he believed - won him the admiration, even of former critics.

The Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham said: "The sad news of John Habgood’s death yesterday calls us to give thanks for his ministry as Bishop of Durham from 1973-83. He was translated to York from here.

"Alongside his leadership of the Diocese through these years his contribution to Science and Religion was immense. His legacy in this regard continues to be significant in Durham today. His family are in our prayers."

The Revd Canon Dr James Walters, director of the London School of Economics Faith Centre, wrote on Twitter: "Rest in peace John Habgood, former Archbishop of York, a model of intelligent, pastoral Anglicanism.

"Margaret Thatcher once accused him, 'You should be providing moral certainty!'. 'But have you thought', he politely inquired, 'that moral certainty might be a sin?'."