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Archbishop of Canterbury condemns welfare changes

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March 10, 2013 09:30 AM EST | AP

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LONDON — The new archbishop of Canterbury has joined other bishops in criticizing the British government's plans to change the welfare system.

Justin Welby backed an open letter from some 40 Church of England bishops that said the proposed changes would drive children and families into poverty.

Sunday's statement marked Welby's first political statement since he was named in his new role as the head of the Church of England. Welby is due to be formally enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral on Mar. 21.

The planned changes, which would cap rises in welfare payments until 2016, aim to cut government spending. The archbishop said a "civilized society" has a duty to support the vulnerable amid rising living costs.

The welfare bill will be debated in the House of Lords next week.