The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who will be formally enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral on March 21, has condemned the Government's plan to change the benefit system.
Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has told ITV News that Government plans to change the benefits system is about "fairness", in response to the Archbishop of Canterbury's warning that "children and families will pay the price".
Mr Duncan Smith said: "This is about fairness. People who are paying taxes, working very hard, have hardly seen any increases in their salary, and yet under the last government, the welfare bill rose by some 60 per cent to £200 billion.
"That means they had to pay for that under their taxes, which is simply not fair.
"That same system trapped huge numbers in dependency, dependent on the state, unable, unwilling to work. What is either moral or fair about that. That is my challenge to the bishops".
The Archbishop of Canterbury has made his first foray into politics with his comments on benefit changes to The Sunday Telegraph.
ITV News' Sejal Karia looks at whether this political intervention is a surprise:
Simply increasing benefits isn't the answer to tackling poverty, the last decade has shown that.
For too long the welfare system has kept families trapped in a cycle of benefit dependency and made it impossible for many to contemplate moving into work and off benefits. That is not right or fair.
– A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson
We are fundamentally changing the system so people are helped into work and out of poverty, whilst providing support for those where work is not a realistic option.
The facts are benefits have risen twice as fast as wages over the past five years, and even in these difficult economic times they will continue to rise each year. But we must ensure that every pound spent on welfare is helping people in the most effective way it can.
Former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown told ITV News the Archbishop of Canterbury's voice "should be listened to" but added it was important to tackle the deficit.
– Lord Ashdown, Liberal Democrat peer
Of course all of us are concerned about (it), that's why indeed the Liberal Democrats have such a commitment to making sure that our contribution to tackling the terrible deficit this country was left, in large part but not exclusively by the failures of the Labour government previously, are tackled with fairness in mind. It's important that we are reminded about the effect of that.
– Department for Work and Pensions spokesman
In difficult economic times we've protected the incomes of pensioners and disabled people, and most working age benefits will continue to increase 1%.
This was a tough decision but it's one that will help keep the welfare bill sustainable in the longer term.
By raising the personal allowance threshold, we've lifted two million people out of tax altogether, clearly benefiting people on a low income.
The archbishop, who will be formally enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral on March 21, said: "As a civilised society, we have a duty to support those among us who are vulnerable and in need. When times are hard, that duty should be felt more than ever, not disappear or diminish.
"It is essential that we have a welfare system that responds to need and recognises the rising costs of food, fuel and housing. The current benefits system does that, by ensuring that the support struggling families receive rises with inflation.
"These changes will mean it is children and families who will pay the price for high inflation, rather than the government."
He added: "Politicians have a clear choice. By protecting children from the effects of this Bill, they can help fulfil their commitment to end child poverty."
– An extract from the letter sent by 43 bishops to The Sunday Telegraph
Children and families are already being hit hard by cuts to support, including those to tax credits, maternity benefits, and help with housing costs. They cannot afford this further hardship penalty. We are calling on the House of Lords to take action to protect children from the impact of this Bill.
The letter, which was sent from 43 bishops including the Archbishop of Canterbury to The Sunday Telegraph, added that "the change will hit the poorest the hardest."
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has warned that "children and families will pay the price" if plans to change the benefit system go ahead in their current form, The Sunday Telegraph said.
The Most Rev Welby and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, have backed the letter.