Williams to be honoured by Catholic church
The Archbishop of Canterbury will today receive one of the top honours awarded by the Catholic Church.
Dr Rowan Williams will be the first Archbishop of Canterbury to be made Knight Grand Cross ñ the highest grade ñ of the Royal Order of Francis I.
The award is for developing and encouraging dialogue between Protestants and Catholics both in his time as Archbishop of Canterbury and in his previous positions, the ceremonyís organisers said.
Dr Williams visited Rome last month and met the Pope for the first time in what was seen as an important step towards further improving relations between Catholics and Anglicans.
Baroness Thatcher and Northern Ireland secretary Paul Murphy were also among those being given the top religious honours at a ceremony in Westminster Cathedral.
Others were being recognised for contributing to the life of the Catholic Church and supporting charities and humanitarian initiatives including Londonís Passage homeless centre.
The ancient award of Knight of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St George was being given to Mr Murphy for his work promoting peace in Northern Ireland.
Former Chief of Defence Staff General Lord Guthrie was also receiving the Knighthood of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St George.
Lady Thatcher was to be made Dame Grand Cross ñ the highest honour ñ of the Royal Order of Francis I for lifetime work towards inter-faith dialogue.
The ceremony was due be presided over by figures including Cardinal Mario Francesco Pompedda, one of the most senior Vatican cardinals and the most senior cardinal to visit Britain since the Popeís visit in 1982.
Also due to be presiding was Cardinal Cormac Murphy-OíConnor, Archbishop of Westminster.
Among those who have sent messages of support were the Queen and Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Mr Blair said the aim of fostering dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims was ìan integral part to strengthening cohesion between our communitiesî.
ìI am proud that Britain is a country of many faiths and many cultures and that this diversity is seen by the overwhelming majority of decent people as one of our countryís strengths,î he said.