By Elliot Jager
Pope Francis responded to criticism Sunday from Rush Limbaugh and other American conservatives that his apostolic proclamation "Evangelii Gaudium," or the "Joy of the Gospel," is "pure Marxism" by telling an Italian newspaper that "Marxist ideology is wrong."
In a pre-Christmas interview, the pope said, however, that the economic stance he was espousing has long been part of the "social Doctrine of the Church."
The Evangelii Gaudium declaration asks, "How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?
"How can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving?"
It goes on to say, "Today, everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without possibilities, without any means of escape."
As for being labeled a Marxist, the pope said he had "met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don't feel offended," CNN reported.
The proclamation issued in November chastises "the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose."
It says there is no evidence that "trickle-down theories" about economic growth tied to a free market "will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world."
The proclamation exhorts an "ethical approach" to economics that favors human beings over conspicuous consumption, "unbridled consumerism" and inequality.
Limbaugh had characterized Evangelii Gaudium as "just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope."
The conservative talk show host said the pope was practically dictating how financial markets should operate.
"He says that the global economy needs government control."
In his response to the critics, Francis 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, Francis said huge salaries and bonuses were symptoms of an economy based on greed and called again for nations to narrow the wealth gap.
Conservatives in the 1.2 billion member Church have expressed concern and disappointment about some of the pope's pronouncements, such as when he said he was not in a position to judge homosexuals who are people of good will sincerely seeking God.
Asked about speculation that a woman could be among the new cardinals he will appoint early next year, he said: "I don't know where that idea comes from. Women in the Church should be valued, not 'clericalized'."
In other parts of the interview, Francis also said a committee of eight cardinals from around the world who are advising him on changes to the Vatican structure would make its first formal recommendations to him in February but that reform would be a "lengthy task".
He said that reform of the Vatican's sometimes murky finances was "on the right path" and expressed satisfaction that last week a Council of Europe committee called Moneyval gave the Vatican a good evaluation of its efforts to abide by international financial standards.
He said he had not yet decided what to do about the Vatican bank, which has been touched by scandals over the decades. In the past he has not ruled out closing it.
Francis said he was "getting ready" to go to the Holy Land next year to mark the 50th anniversary of when Pope Paul VI became the first pope in modern times to visit there.
He has been invited by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to make a visit, which is expected to take place in May or June.
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