THE leading cleric in the Church of England visited a temple near Potters Bar on Friday to find out more about Jainism.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, joined around 250 members of the community at the largest Jain temple in Europe, in Northaw.

Dr Williams spent about four hours at the Oshwal Centre, in Coopers Lane Road, as part of a fact-finding visit about the ancient religion.

He was joined on the tour of the temple, which was built in 2005 and is constructed of marble carved and shipped over from India, by vice President of the centre Ashok Shah.

He said: “Dr Williams was very relaxed and so at ease with everyone he met. He came here with no security and had time to stop and speak to everyone, which was amazing.

“He really took in everything he was told about Jainism and explained a bit about similarities with Christianity. He wasn't trying to argue counter points, just taking it in.

“What he was struck by is the anti-violence message, which he said all major religions share. He said he was very keen we should learn a lot from each other.”

Mr Shah first met Dr Williams at the signing of a declaration for peace in November and made arrangements for him to visit to learn more about the religion.

Jainism started around 2,600 years ago in India and members of the religion strive to achieve Nirvana by improving the soul and progressing up the spiritual ladder.

There are around 50,000 members of the community in the UK.