New London, Dec. 2--(AP) Rowan Williams became leader of the world's 70 million Anglicans on Monday as he was confirmed as the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury in a special service at St. Paul's Cathedral.

The soft-spoken intellectual, who has called on the church to debate the thorny issues of homosexuality and the ordination of women, replaces the Most Rev. George Carey as leader of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion worldwide. Dressed in traditional black, white and purple, Williams pledged allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II, who as monarch is temporal head of the Church of England. He also declared his loyalty to the historic practices of the church.

"It's a very humbling thing to be included in this long succession of archbishops, and a very humbling thing to be aware of the trust that has been placed in my hands," Williams, 52, said afterward. "I pray for God's guidance as I seek to meet this new challenge _ a challenge I face with a sense of inadequacy but also with hope, with joy and with enthusiasm."

The ancient ceremony was presided over by the Archbishop of York, David Hope. Also present were the eight senior bishops from the Canterbury province of the church, including the Bishop of London, the Right Rev. Richard Chartres. The ceremony was the second stage in the process of appointing a successor to Carey, who stepped down as archbishop last month after serving 11 1/2 years.

Last month, the College of Canons of Canterbury approved Williams at a service in Canterbury Cathedral, the ancient seat of the spiritual head of the Church of England. Monday's ceremony confirms his election to the wider Church of England. But Williams, who was appointed in July by Prime Minister Tony Blair, will not begin his public ministry until Feb. 27, when he is enthroned as archbishop at Canterbury Cathedral.

Williams, his wife Jane, and their two young children will move to the archbishop's London residence, Lambeth Palace, this month.

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