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“In the last three years, I have grown to appreciate more and more the fine qualities of Archbishop Rowan: his kindness, his sharp intellect, his dedication to striving for harmony between peoples, especially within the Christian family, his courage and his friendship,” said Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Catholic Church in England.

John Sentamu, the Church of England archbishop of York, said Williams had endured much unfair criticism.

“Despite his courageous, tireless and holy endeavor, he has been much maligned by people who should have known better. For my part he has been God’s apostle for our time,” said John Sentamu, who figures prominently in speculation about Williams‘ successor.

“His stepping down to pursue something he dearly loves — teaching and writing — is received with gratitude, as this will continue to be a blessing to the Church,” Sentamu said.

Williams has a deep connection with Cambridge University, where he studied theology at Christ’s College and then served as a tutor at Westcott House, a Church of England theological college in the city. He lectured in the School of Divinity from 1980 to 1986, and was dean and chaplain of Clare College from 1984 to 1986.

Cambridge is also where he met his wife, Jane, a fellow theologian and author. They married in 1981.

He was appointed bishop of Monmouth in Wales in 1992, and took on the additional title of archbishop of Wales in 2000.