Pope Francis: Handing over wealth to the poor is Christianity -- not communism
Pope Francis married 20 couples from different social backgrounds during a ceremony at St Peter's basilica in Vatican City, on September 14, 2014 (AFP)

Handing over wealth to the poor is Christianity – not communism, Pope Francis told Catholics.

The pope struck back during Mass Tuesday at critics who accuse him of promoting socialist ideals, saying they misunderstood the Gospels’ central theme, reported National Catholic Reporter.

“Poverty is precisely at the heart of the Gospel,” Pope Francis said. “If we were to remove poverty from the Gospel, people would understand nothing about Jesus' message.”

He urged Catholics to share their “wealth of the heart” – which he said Christ taught and offered to everyone – by sharing the wealth in their wallet.

"When the faith doesn't reach your pockets, it is not a genuine faith,” the pope said.

Pope Francis reminded Christians that Jesus became poor and eventually sacrificed his own life to save humanity – but he said charity is not enough.

"Christian poverty is that I give to the poor what is mine, not just what is left over, but even that which I need for myself, because I know that he enriches me,” he said.

“Why does the poor person enrich me?” the pope continued. “Because Jesus said that he himself is in the poor."

He said Christ works within those who give up their attachment to worldly possessions, telling Catholics that giving to others would enrich them – just as Jesus gave of himself in the Eucharist.

“He becomes bread for us,” the pope said.

Pope Francis explained that the “theology of poverty” which forms the heart of the gospel goes far beyond ideology – such as communism, which he has criticized in the past as spiritually inadequate.

“It is precisely this mystery, the mystery of Christ who lowered himself, was humiliated, made himself poor in order to enrich us," he said.

Watch portions of the pope's remarks posted online by ROME REPORTS: