Welby, who is the Archbishop of Canterbury, featured in the commercial along with a number of fellow Christians reciting lines from the Lord's Prayer to promote the church's JustPray.uk website.

The advert had due to be shown ahead of British screenings of Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens from 18 December (15), but bosses at the country's Digital Cinema Media (DCM) agency have refused to allow it to go ahead.

DCM chiefs, who plan advertising for the U.K.'s major movie theatre chains, Odeon, Cineworld and Vue, claim the clip violates their policy of not screening adverts with religious and political messages in case they upset or offend audiences.

The Archbishop has now criticised the decision, and insisted audiences need comfort in the aftermath of the terrorists attacks in Paris, France on 13 November (15) that left more than 130 dead.

"I find it extraordinary that cinemas rule that it is inappropriate for an advert on prayer to be shown in the week before Christmas when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ," Welby tells Britain's Mail on Sunday newspaper.

"Billions of people across the world pray this prayer on a daily basis. I think they would be astonished and deeply saddened by this decision, especially in the light of the terrorist attack in Paris where many people have found comfort and solace in prayer.

"This advert is about as 'offensive' as a carol service or church service on Christmas Day..."

Church officials are considering taking legal action under Britain's Equality Act, which prevents businesses in the U.K. from refusing services on the grounds of religion, according to the publication.