South West Wales

Rowan Williams returns to Swansea for freedom honour

The Archbishop of Canterbury has been granted the freedom of the city he grew up in.

Rowan Williams received the honour at Swansea's Guildhall with the ceremony followed by a service at St Mary's Church in the city centre.

Dr Williams, raised in Swansea and a pupil at Dynefor School, said the recognition was "very special".

On Sunday, Rev Canon Andrew Vessey will celebrate his final service at St Mary's, before he retires as vicar.

Swansea council agreed earlier this year to bestow the freedom of the city on Dr Williams, who has been leader of the Anglican Communion since 2003.

The council said Dr Williams has a long association with Swansea and remains a great supporter of the area.

Dr Rowan Williams follows in the footsteps of former US President Jimmy Carter, footballer John Charles and military organisations including HMS Scott and The Royal Welsh Regiment.

He told BBC Wales the honour was "very special" as the city had given him "deep experiences".

He said: "I've always been really proud to be a citizen of Swansea and always feel that it is still "home" even though most of my family are now dead, who lived here, but we still have friends here.

"In my very early youth, when we lived in Ystradgynlais, Swansea was the big city locally."

He said Dynefor School and All Saints Church in Oystermouth, Mumbles, had been influencial in his later path.

"I feel I owe a great deal to both of those environments, in encouraging me and giving me a bit of a vision," he said.

'Best-known clergyman'

And he said he was pleased to be following in the footsteps of Jimmy Carter as the former US President was "a bit of a hero for me - so that's a good feeling".

The Lord Mayor of Swansea, Richard Lewis, said: "Dr Williams is a true son of Swansea and he's always maintained his links with the city over the years.

"Dr Williams is the first Welshman to hold the post of Archbishop of Canterbury and he is now one of the best-known clergymen in the world."

Canon Vessey has been Vicar of St Mary's for five years and is retiring to Suffolk with is wife Anna.

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