List of Archbishops of Canterbury

List Of Archbishops Of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the "Primate of All England (the 'first bishop' of England)" of the established Church of England and, symbolically, of the worldwide Anglican Communion. From the time of Augustine of Canterbury until the 16th century, the Archbishops of Canterbury were Roman Catholic and in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. During the English Reformation the church broke away from the authority of the Pope, at first temporarily and later more permanently. Since then the archbishops have been outside of the succession of the Roman Catholic Church's hierarchy and have led the independent national church.

In the Middle Ages there was considerable variation in the nomination of the archbishop and other bishops—at various times the choice was made by the canons of Canterbury Cathedral, the king of England, or the Pope. Since the Reformation, the church is explicitly a state church and the choice is legally that of the British crown; today it is made in the name of the monarch by the Prime Minister, from a shortlist of two selected by an ad hoc committee called the Crown Nominations Commission.

Today, the archbishop has four main roles:

  • He is the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury, which covers the east of the County of Kent and the extreme north-east of Surrey. Founded by Augustine in 597, it is the oldest bishopric in the English church. The bulk of this role is delegated to the suffragan Bishop of Dover (who is as such called the "Bishop in Canterbury").
  • He is the metropolitan of the Province of Canterbury, encompassing 30 dioceses in the southern two-thirds of England. The remaining 14 dioceses in the north of England fall within the Province of York, under the aegis of the Archbishop of York. Four dioceses in Wales were under the Province of Canterbury until they were transferred to the disestablished Church in Wales in 1920.
  • As "Primate of All England", he is the chief religious figure in the Church of England (the British sovereign is the "Supreme Governor" of the church).
  • As symbolic head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop is recognised as primus inter pares ("first among equals") of all Anglican primates.

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