Archbishop Justin Welby and Pope Francis: Similar styles of the new men at the top of the Church

As the religious world comes to terms with the two men at the top of the Church, Yahoo! takes a look at their contrasting styles and backgrounds.

As the fanfare continued this week for the inauguration of Pope Francis, on these shores another key Church figure is starting a high-profile new role.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, went on his own pilgrimage around five English cities this month before his enthronement as leader of the Church of England.

The Archbishop, who chose a visit to West Sussex yesterday in favour of the Vatican for Pope Francis's inauguration, will lead 80 million Christians in more than 160 countries.

As the religious world comes to terms with the two men at the top of the Church, Yahoo! takes a look at their contrasting styles and backgrounds.


Justin Welby famously turned his back on a successful oil industry career to train as an Anglican priest.

The Cambridge-educated former oil executive spent 11 years in the industry, and was earning a six-figure salary as group treasurer for Enterprise Oil Inc before the dramatic career change in the late 1980s.

He studied theology at Durham before working at Coventry Cathedral and later working his way to become Bishop of Durham, one of the most senior church roles in England.

By contrast, Pope Francis, aged 76, has had a longer career in the Church, having studied in Argentina, Chile and Germany before being ordained for the Jesuits in 1969.

Related: Pope promises 'respect' for all world religions

According to his official Vatican biography, he was Provincial for Argentina from 1973 to 1979, then later rector of the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel.

After becoming Coadjutor Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1997, more high-profile positions saw him eventually named President of the Bishops' Conference of Argentina in 2005.

It was at this time that he was seen was seen as a contender for the papacy, but he lost out to Pope Benedict XVI in the 2005 conclave.


Both the Archbishop and Pope Francis have faced challenges to their long-held forthright views on controversial subjects.

Justin Welby has rigorously defended the Church's right to oppose gay marriage, but has also insisted he is keen to accommodate opposing views.

Argentinian Pope Francis, who also opposes gay marriage, faced challenges when his home country became the first Latin American country to legalise same-sex marriage.

He responded by saying: "This isn't a simple political fight, it's an attempt to destroy God's plan."

Related: Archbishop Welby wishes new Pope 'every blessing'

Pope Francis is described as being 'as uncompromising as Pope John Paul II, in terms of the principles of the Church - everything it has defended regarding euthanasia, the death penalty, abortion, the right to life, human rights, celibacy of priests'.

The new Archbishop has vowed to speak up on views he feels strongly about, and has spoken about how he plans to address declining congregation numbers in the Church.

In a similar vein, Pope Francis has acknowledged that the Church is 'wrapped up in its own world'.

He has stated that he plans to go out, meet Catholics and evangelise, adding: "If I had to choose between a wounded church that goes out on to the streets and a sick, withdrawn church, I would definitely choose the first one."


Seen as a 'Pope of the People' by some, Pope Francis surprised onlookers this week with his informal, simple approach during his inauguration.

The new pontiff met the crowds in St Peter's Square in an open-top 'Popemobile' Jeep, kissed sick men
and young children, and was generally seen to have a hands-on, friendlier approach.

He is known for having a scaled-down security presence, often flies economy class when travelling to Rome, and in Argentina he lived in a simple Buenos Aires flat in the building of the Archdiocese.

Bishop Welby, meanwhile, is seen as having the key conflict resolution skills needed to deal with the various warring factions of the Church.

Former colleagues of the Archbishop recall a man who was an 'enthusiastic, hands-on vicar', who was 'great fun and very energetic'.

His communication skills from his time in the oil industry are seen as key to his new role.

Rev John Armstrong, who took over when Dr Welby left one of his earliest church posts in Southam, Warks, told Yahoo!: He is good at communicating with people and getting them to communicate with each other, and that will work in his favour in his new role.

"He certainly did a good job here and was instrumental in bringing this Church a lot more alive than it was before."