Pope Francis has been forced to defend his economic and social ideologies after prominent conservatives accused him of coming forward with "pure Marxism".
The comments came after the Pontiff railed against the "new tyranny" of unfettered capitalism in an 84-page document published last month.
The "apostolic exhortation" sets out the terms by which a pope intends to run the Catholic Church - yet it was slammed by the outspoken conservative US talk show host Rush Limbaugh.
Mr Limbaugh, who is not a member of the church, said the comments went "beyond Catholicism" and were "purely political". He claimed parts of the document were "pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope", and suggested that someone else must have written the papal document for him.
Today, Pope Francis said: "Marxist ideology is wrong. But in my life I have known many Marxists who are good people, so I don't feel offended."
In his response to the critics, the pope said he was not speaking "as a technician but according to the social doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, and this does not mean being Marxist". He said he was just trying to present a "snapshot of what is happening" in the world today.
In another document last week, he said huge salaries and bonuses were symptoms of an economy based on greed and called again for nations to narrow the wealth gap.
Speaking to La Stampa, Pope Francis covered a range of topics. He said another rumour about his leadership - that he would be appointing women as cardinals next year - was unfounded.
"I don't know where that idea comes from. Women in the Church should be valued, not 'clericalised'," he said.
He also said that the "lengthy task" to reform the Vatican's murky finances was "on the right path", with a committee due to report in February.
And in a look forward to an anniversary visit to the Holy Land, Pope Francis said he had been invited by both Israel and the Palestinian territories for a trip expected in either May or June.
- Independent UK