Pope Francis said he knew a lot of "good" Marxists but was no communist himself, following criticism of his diatribes against unfettered capitalism from conservative commentators in the United States.
"Marxist ideology is wrong. But in my life I have met a lot of Marxists who are good people, so I do not feel offended," Francis said in an interview with the Italian daily La Stampa published on Sunday.
He said his condemnations of the inequality caused by the current global economic system were not intended to be an expert analysis and were only a reiteration of the social doctrine of the Catholic Church.
"That does not mean being a Marxist," he said.
US radio host Rush Limbaugh labelled as "pure Marxism" a text published by the pope last month in which he warned that an unfair economic system "kills" and warned that unregulated capitalism was "a new tyranny".
The criticism of the pope, who witnessed the effects of a devastating economic collapse first hand in his homeland Argentina, was repeated by members of the Tea Party movement and the television channel Fox News.
Francis is himself a moderate conservative and was a fierce critic of the leftist-inspired Liberation Theology movement in Latin America, although he has recently appeared to reconcile with its leaders.