Archbishop Gets 'Rockstar' Welcome

The Archbishop of Canterbury was given a rock star-style welcome as he took part in his final leg of his pilgrimage around five English cities before his enthronement as leader of the Church of England.

Traffic was brought to a standstill as more than 3,000 people gathered in the centre of Chichester, West Sussex, to greet the Most Rev Justin Welby.

Church officials said the numbers seen in the cathedral city were far higher than in the four other cities he has visited in the past six days: Norwich, Coventry, Truro and London.

The Archbishop chose to miss the papal inauguration of Pope Francis in Rome to join in a "journey in prayer'' ahead of his enthronement as leader of the Anglican church at Canterbury Cathedral on Thursday.

Asked why he chose West Sussex over the Vatican, he said: "Because I promised to come and it's really important to be here as this is the run-up to my own installation on Thursday

"It's just a treat to be here.''

He started off his visit by greeting the crowd in Market Cross, causing buses and other traffic to halt, before winding his way through the throng to Chichester Cathedral.

The Diocese of Chichester has been at the centre of allegations of historic child abuse, and an inquiry was set up examining its child safeguarding issues.

Last month, the Archbishop issued a statement apologising for the "betrayals and failings'' that occurred following the jailing for eight years of retired priest Robert Coles, 71.

Coles, of Eastbourne, East Sussex, admitted buggery and four indecent assaults on one victim and three indecent assaults against two other boys dating back to the 1970s.

Today the Archbishop said the diocese was in the midst of a "new era'' under the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, as he was questioned on the biggest challenges facing the diocese.

He said: "I think what it requires is total honesty and transparency and absolute acknowledgement of the harm that has been done, and a real self-awareness that enables us to change dramatically.

"I think all these are being shown by Bishop Martin. Bishop Martin and the team are coming together effectively and under his leadership I think we are seeing a completely new era in the life of the diocese.''

Asked how he was feeling about his enthronement, he added: "I'm not nervous. I'm very conscious it's going to be a very big day but it's exciting.''

Members of the public joined the Archbishop in the 900-year-old Chichester Cathedral for prayers.

Lambeth Palace has said the pilgrimage was aimed at highlighting the spiritual role of the Archbishop and the importance of prayer in Christian life.

The Most Rev Welby has led similar pilgrimages before becoming Bishop of Durham, his last role, and in his previous post of Dean of Liverpool.

The Venerable Roger Combes, the Archdeacon of Horsham, said: "This is a sign of hope and shows that people are interested and keen to see the Archbishop. It's an encouragement of his appointment.''

The Reverend Helen Dawes, the Archbishop's deputy secretary for public affairs, said: "It's absolutely wonderful to see the sheer number of people and the enthusiasm that they are all sharing in God's graciousness.''