Pope Francis acknowledged his growing opposition within the conservative right wing of the US Catholic Church and said in off-hand remarks aboard the papal plane Wednesday it is "an honor if the Americans attack me." Francis commented on critics of his papacy when he received a copy of a new book about his detractors in the United States, How America Wants to Change the Pope, the AP reports. Author Nicholas Seneze, who covers the Vatican for the French Catholic newspaper La Croix, presented it to Francis on a flight to southern Africa. The plane landed in Maputo, Mozambique, late in the afternoon. Francis is on a trip this that also takes him to Madagascar and Mauritius.
In his book, Seneze charts the fierce criticism of Francis among American conservatives who loathe his outreach to migrants and China, his denunciation of free-market capitalism, his environmental concerns, and his relaxation of church rules on the death penalty and sacraments for civilly remarried Catholics. Some have gone so far as to accuse Francis of heresy. In presenting the book to Francis, Seneze explained that he had wanted to show Francis' problems with the US church and how Francis had responded with "spiritual weapons." "For me, it's an honor if the Americans attack me," Francis quipped. As he handed the book to an aide, the pope added: "This is a bombshell." Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni sought to clarify the pope's comments afterward, stressing they came in an "informal context" and that Francis always welcomes criticism.
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