LONDON (AP) — The new archbishop of Canterbury is being formally enthroned Thursday — and questions about the Church of England's opposition to same-sex marriage are greeting his promotion.
Justin Welby will be the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury and serves as head of the Church of England and spiritual leader of the world's 77 million-strong Anglican Communion.
Welby told the BBC that he is aware that many gays have enduring relationships of "stunning" quality that have "deeply challenged" his own views.
He also predicted in a Channel Five interview that there will be a female archbishop in the future despite the failure to pass legislation backing the idea last year.
These issues have dogged his predecessors and led to deep divisions within the church.
Welby is to be formally enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral before politicians, including Prime Minister David Cameron, and religious leaders.
Some people protesting government welfare cuts gathered outside the 900-year-old cathedral in southern England before the Thursday afternoon ceremony.
Pope Francis sent a message congratulating Welby and calling for a meeting in the near future.
"Please be assured of my prayers as you take up your new responsibilities," the pope said.