The Bishop of Durham, the fourth most senior cleric in the Church of England, has accepted the post of Archbishop of Canterbury, according to reports.
Sources have confirmed that the Rt Rev Justin Welby will be announced as the successor to Dr Rowan Williams as early as Friday, the Daily Telegraph reported, after the Crown Nominations Commission put his name forward to Downing Street.
The Times newspaper also reported that he is expected to be named as the new Archbishop of Canterbury as early as Friday.
The news comes just hours after it was revealed that the Rt Rev Welby, 56, will not make a scheduled appearance on Friday's recording of BBC Radio 4's Any Questions at the National Railway Museum at Shildon, Co Durham, a spokesman from his office confirmed.
Leading bookmakers William Hill and Ladbrokes also fuelled speculation that he is to be appointed after they announced that they had closed their books on betting for the Archbishop of Canterbury following a rush of bets on Bishop Welby.
Bishop Welby said he was unable to comment on speculation about the appointment. Speaking during a break in the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards inquiry, of which he is a committee member, he said: "I am not able to comment, only Lambeth Palace can."
A police officer at Portcullis House in Westminster, where the inquiry is being heard, congratulated the Bishop on his new post to which he laughed and raised his hands in defence. The commission was set up to consider and report on professional standards and culture of the UK banking system. It is due to publish its first report next month.
The reported confirmation of the Rt Rev Welby's appointment as 105th Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual leader of the 77 million strong Anglican Communion will be seen as a meteoric rise in the career of the clergyman, who marks the first anniversary of his enthronement as Bishop of Durham later this month.
The Eton-educated bishop worked in the oil industry for 11 years before leaving to train for the Anglican priesthood. He was first ordained as a deacon in 1992. "I was unable to get away from a sense of God calling," he said in an interview.
A Lambeth Palace spokeswoman declined to comment. A Downing Street spokesman refused to confirm or deny the appointment. He said: "An announcement will be made in due course."