SENIOR Hampshire churchmen have today welcomed news of the appointment of the new Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Right Reverend Justin Welby, 56, currently Bishop of Durham, will be the 105th archbishop replacing Rowan Williams who is retiring in december.

The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Rev Tim Dakin said today: “It's exciting to hear that a new Archbishop of Canterbury has been named today and I speak for the whole diocese in saying that he can be assured of our prayers as he takes up this enormous task.

“We cannot welcome a new archbishop without acknowledging with gratitude the decade of work and ministry of Archbishop Rowan Williams whom he succeeds. Leadership of the Anglican Communion is a task more demanding than any of us can imagine and we look to the Spirit of God to inspire and encourage Bishop Justin.”

Bishop Tim added: “He faces a range of challenges, expectations and complex issues that only his faithful walk with God will enable him to address and we look forward, with Anglicans around the world, to joining him on that path.”

The Rt Rev Christopher Foster, Bishop of Portsmouth, said: “He will bring his vigorous faith in Jesus Christ and a passion for reconciliation and truth.

“His previous experience in business and the world give him great insight into the challenges and opportunities for the Church and the Gospel in the coming years. I am confident he will speak and lead with clarity about the issues facing the nation and the world.”

The new archbishop will be enthroned in Canterbury Cathedral on March 21 2013.

Educated at Eton and a father of five, he worked in the oil industry for ten years before being ordained in 1992.

He said today: "I don't think anyone could be more surprised than me at the outcome of this process.

"It has been an experience, reading more about me than I knew myself. To be nominated to Canterbury is at the same time overwhelming and astonishing.

"It is overwhelming because of those I follow, and the responsibility it has. It is astonishing because it is something I never expected to happen.”