Justin Welby: I hope I do not oversee Queen's funeral

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said he hopes he does not have to carry out the Queen's funeral.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said it would be an "enormous" public event and "the most extraordinary historic moment".

In an interview for British GQ, he described the Queen as "one of the most extraordinary people I have ever met".

The archbishop also told the magazine he was unable to "give a straight answer" to the question on whether gay sex is sinful.

Interviewed by former Labour communications director Alistair Campbell, Mr Welby - who took up his current post in 2012 - was asked whether he loses sleep thinking he might have to preside over the Queen's funeral.

"I don't lose sleep and I do hope I don't have to do that," he said.

"It's enormous, whoever does it - God willing someone else - because it is an enormous public event. But as a parish priest, at every funeral you think about the enormity of it."

He added: "I don't want to get into details because it is not something I want to talk about, but the Queen is the most extraordinary person, one of the most extraordinary people I have ever met, in every possible way."

As the Queen is the supreme governor of the Church of England, it might be expected that the church's most senior clergyman would carry out the duty of leading her funeral when that time comes. But her 65-year reign has already outlasted Mr Welby's six previous incumbents in the post.

'Badly phrased'

During the interview, for the November issue of the magazine, the archbishop is also asked if gay sex is sinful.

"Do you know, we have done religion, we have done politics, why am I surprised we are on to gay sex?" he said.

"You know very well that is a question I can't give a straight answer to. Sorry, badly phrased there. I should have thought that one through."

When asked why, he went on: "Because I don't do blanket condemnation and I haven't got a good answer to the question.

"I'll be really honest about that. I know I haven't got a good answer to the question.

"Inherently, within myself, the things that seem to me to be absolutely central are around faithfulness, stability of relationships and loving relationships."

The Church of England's stance on sexuality was in the spotlight earlier this year, when the church's ruling body voted against a controversial report that said marriage in church should only be between a man and a woman.

Current rules ban the marriage of same-sex couples in the Church. Services of blessing for civil partnerships are also prohibited, but informal prayers are allowed.

In July, the archbishop said the Church of England would spend three years on a document outlining a new stance on sexuality.

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