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Pope Francis says communists are really 'closet Christians'

The Church's message of poverty is echoed by Communism, according to the leader of the Catholic Church

Pope Francis has claimed that Communists are closet Christians, who have appropriated the Gospel’s central message of poverty. 

The leader of the Catholic Church, whose uninhibited criticisms of capitalism have seen him labelled a Marxist, said in an interview published on Sunday that communists had “stolen” the flag of Christianity.

The 77-year-old pontiff spoke to Rome’s local newspaper, Il Messaggero, to mark the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul. He said: “I can only say that the communists have stolen our flag. The flag of the poor is Christian. Poverty is at the centre of the Gospel.”

He made the comments after being asked about a blog post in the Economist magazine that said he sounded like a Leninist when he criticised capitalism and called for radical economic reform.

Citing Biblical passages about the need to help the poor, the sick and the needy, the Pope said: ”Communists say that all this is communism. Sure, twenty centuries later. So when they speak, one can say to them: 'but then you are Christian'.”


In the same interview, Francis criticised global politics, which he said had been “devalued, ruined by corruption, by the phenomenon of bribery”.

And he talked about the “moral decay” present in society as a whole, saying that Europe’s low birth rate was both the result of the current economic crisis and a “cultural drift marked by selfishness and hedonism”.

But he added that he hoped people would not lose their “joy, hope, confidence, despite difficulties”.

Since his election in March 2013, Francis has often attacked the global economic system as being insensitive to the poor and not doing enough to share wealth with those who need it most.

Earlier this month, he criticised the wealth made from financial speculation as intolerable and said speculation on commodities was a scandal that compromised the poor's access to food.

The Pope has suffered from a series of health problems in recent weeks On Sunday he held his first major public ceremony after a spate of cancelled appointments, presiding over a 90-minute mass in St Peter’s Basilica.

Additional reporting by Reuters