Pope Francis has a message for his critics.
During a mass on Tuesday at the Vatican, Francis rejected criticism that focusing on poverty and giving to the poor amounts to a form of communism, according to Vatican Radio.
Francis said he and other church leaders often hear, “but this priest talks too much about poverty, this bishop speaks of poverty, this Christian, this nun talks about poverty … aren’t they a little communist, right?”
But “poverty is at the very center of the Gospel,” Francis said, adding that Christian faith must be expressed through the wallet.
“If you have so much richness in the heart, these great riches of zeal, charity, the Word of God, the knowledge of God – let this wealth reach your pockets – and this is a golden rule: when faith does not come with pockets, (it is) not a genuine faith,” Francis said, according to Vatican Radio
Francis didn’t specify who, exactly, has accused him or other church leaders of promoting communism. But Francis’ papacy has been notable for a number of provocative positions.
“Who am I to judge?” Francis has said of the LGBT community. He has also washed the feet of inmates, has said women should have a larger role in the Catholic Church and called for sympathy for divorced couples. In July, he is set to meet with a gay activist in Paraguay.
And this week, Francis is expected to take a strong stance on climate change, according to a leaked draft of a document the pope will send to Catholic bishops.
“Humanity is called to take note of the need for changes in lifestyle and changes in methods of production and consumption to combat this warming, or at least the human causes that produce and accentuate it,” Francis writes in a 191-page encyclical, which was leaked to the media Tuesday. “Numerous scientific studies indicate that the greater part of the global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases … given off above all because of human activity.”
The pope’s position has irked some Republicans. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who is Catholic and is seeking the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, said recently that “we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists,” adding, “When we get involved with political and controversial scientific theories, I think the church is probably not as forceful and credible.”
And former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who formally launched his own presidential bid earlier this week and is also a practicing Catholic, took issue with the pope’s climate stance on Tuesday.
“I hope I’m not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope,” Bush said. “And I’d like to see what he says as it relates to climate change and how that connects to these broader, deeper issue before I pass judgment. But I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting in the political realm.”