South Africa's ruling party has intervened in the war of words between President Thabo Mbeki and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, trying to calm tempers.
Tutu criticised government policies on Aids, black empowerment and Zimbabwe
The African National Congress said that Mr Mbeki's statement reflected the party's views but denied he had called the archbishop a liar and a charlatan.
On Tuesday, the Nobel Peace prize winner said he would pray for Mr Mbeki, as he had for the apartheid government.
Archbishop Tutu began the row last week, criticising government policies.
He said that black empowerment was only benefiting "a small elite that tends to be recycled" and said political "kowtowing" within the ruling ANC was hampering democracy.
Mr Mbeki hit back on Friday in his weekly online letter to ANC members, saying the archbishop had never been a member of the party and had "very little knowledge" of how the ANC worked.
The BBC's Barnaby Phillips in South Africa says that the extraordinary row has seen perhaps the most bitter argument between black leaders since the end of apartheid 10 years ago.
The South African Council of Churches has also joined the fray, urging both sides to avoid personality politics, reports the South African Press Association.
Too many of our people live in gruelling, demeaning, dehumanising poverty. We are sitting on a powder keg
Archbishop Tutu, 23 November
It would be good if those that present themselves as the greatest defenders of the poor should also demonstrate decent respect for the truth
President Mbeki, 26 November
I will continue to pray for you and your government by name daily as I have done and as I did even for the apartheid government
Archbishop Tutu, 29 November
Political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi told the BBC that the ANC was not used to being criticised after its long struggle against apartheid and that Archbishop Tutu, who had also been part of the struggle, had every right to make such criticism.
The ANC told the archbishop: "Neither [it] nor its president regards you as 'a liar with scant regard for the truth', but we do recognize that even someone like yourself has the capacity to err."
Mr Mbeki had accused the archbishop of resorting to "empty rhetoric".
"It would be good if those that present themselves as the greatest defenders of the poor should also demonstrate decent respect for the truth," he said.
Archbishop Tutu responded with a bitter statement on Monday:
"Thank you Mr President for telling me what you think of me,"
"That I am a liar with scant regard for the truth and a charlatan posing with his concern for the poor, the hungry, the oppressed and the voiceless.
"I will continue to pray for you and your government by name daily as I have done and as I did even for the apartheid government," he said.
The archbishop, who won the 1984 Nobel Peace prize for his part in the struggle against apartheid, started the row by saying that the government was not doing enough to reduce poverty.
"At the moment many, too many, of our people live in gruelling, demeaning, dehumanising poverty. We are sitting on a powder keg," he said at the Nelson Mandela annual lecture in Johannesburg last Tuesday.
Mbeki has a history of getting personal in his online messages
He also raised concerns about President Mbeki's policies on Aids and the crisis in Zimbabwe.
The trade union movement, Cosatu, which is allied to the ANC, but unhappy with many aspects of government policy leapt to the archbishop's defence, only to receive its own sharp rebuke.
Last month, Mr Mbeki used his weekly online column to criticise a high-profile anti-rape campaigner.
In May, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe called Archbishop Tutu "an angry, evil and embittered little bishop" after the Nobel Peace prize winner likened Mr Mugabe to an archetypal African dictator.