Pope Francis says he's not a liberal, challenges conservative critics to read the Catholic Creed

Pope Francis rides off in the back of a Fiat hatchback
(Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

On his chartered Alitalia flight from Cuba to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Pope Francis responded to criticism from U.S. conservatives that he is a liberal, even a Marxist. "I am certain that I have never said anything beyond what is in the social doctrine of the church," Francis told the reporters traveling with him. "Maybe I have given an impression of being a little bit to the left," but that is a mistaken interpretation. "If I have to recite the Creed, I'm ready," he joked.

Pope Francis illustrated this with a story told to him by a cardinal "who is a friend," who was asked by an older Catholic lady — "a good woman, but a bit rigid" — about whether the Antichrist was the same as an "anti-Pope."

"'Why are you asking,' the cardinal said. 'Well, I am sure Pope Francis is the anti-pope.'""'Why do you say that?'""'Well, because he renounced the red shoes, which are so historic,'" the pope said the woman responded.People have all sorts of reasons to think, "he's communist or he's not communist," the pope said. [Catholic News Service]

The pope added that he won't explicitly call for an end to the U.S. embargo of Cuba when he addresses Congress on Thursday, but that he hopes the U.S. and Cuba "end up with a good result, with an accord that satisfies both sides." You can watch Pope Francis' comments; his welcome from President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, their families, and several cardinals; plus his departure from Andrews Air Force Base in the back of a Fiat hatchback, in the Associated Press video below. Peter Weber

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.