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Archbishop of Canterbury Retires - 2002-10-31

George Carey retires Thursday as the Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual leader of the world's 70 million Anglicans. For 11 years, he has led the Anglican community through a period of change and challenge.

Archbishop Carey leaves office defending traditional church values on issues such homosexuality, and he warns that the Anglican community could fracture over the more liberal actions of certain bishops.

The archbishop says he firmly believes Anglican clerics should not practice homosexuality.

And he told British television he objects to moves by some dioceses in the United States and Canada to give religious sanction to homosexual unions.

"I don't believe in blessing same-sex relationships, because, frankly, I don't know what I'm blessing," he said.

The archbishop said he believes the Church of England should retain its role as the state religion, with its official ties to the British monarchy and government.

"We are a Christian nation. We should be proud of our Christianity," he said. "The particular link with the monarchy, all these are part of establishment. And I think we would be the poorer, if we lost that relationship."

However, he says, Britain is no longer a nation of one single faith, and he hopes religious leaders from other communities will participate in the coronation of future monarchs.

He also favors a review of the church's ban on the heir to the throne marrying a Roman Catholic.

Archbishop Carey plays down speculation about whether the church would sanction a marriage between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, a divorcee who has had a long relationship with Britain's future king.

"We must wait and see what happens. Prince Charles has clearly said he has no intention to marry, and we take him at his word," he said. "I'm in regular contact with him, and the matter hasn't come up."

The incoming Archbishop of Canterbury is Rowan Williams, who currently leads the church in Wales. He is considered more liberal than Archbishop Carey, particularly on homosexuality. Evangelical groups are demanding that he recant his views, before he assumes office in December.

The Church of England was established in the 1530s by King Henry the VIII. He broke with Roman Catholicism after the pope refused to grant him a divorce from Catherine of Aragon for not producing a male heir to the throne.

In recent times, the Church of England has struggled to maintain its relevancy in modern day British society. Weekly church attendance has fallen below one million, and fewer than half of England's population are baptized Anglicans.