The editorial director of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication, Andrea Tornielli, has addressed in an interview the charge that Pope Francis is a communist.

Driving the news

Since he became Pope, Francis has been totally committed to ending poverty and hunger. He has also worked unfailingly to promote inclusive and sustainable economic development with employment for all.

These priorites have led to the accusation that Pope Francis is a communist.

As Dean Dettloff recalls in America, Pope Francis writes in his encyclical Laudato Si’ that:

“The Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property”.

That comes close, for some, to what Marx and Engels say in The Communist Manifesto.


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One level deeper

As Andrea Tornielli explained, however:

“When Francis speaks of poverty, there are those who say he is a Marxist or a communist, simply because those who make these comments don’t know the Fathers of the ancient Church who, a thousand years before Marxism and communism, already said very strong things about attention to the poor and the use of money. No one said they were Marxists, because Marxism did not yet exist”.

Tornielli also offered an explanation as to why left-leaning people – even non-Catholics – are more likely to support the Pope. Why, too, right-leaning people more likely to criticise him.

“I think it is perhaps because neither one group nor the other listens to or reads everything the Pope says”, said the Italian journalist.

“On the other hand, the fact that there are people on the left who like Francis cannot be generalized: there are those who do not understand him or try to politically instrumentalize his message, but there are also those who have truly let themselves be touched by his gestures or words”, Tornielli explained.

“Nor can it be generalized with the right-wing people who attack him. There are attacks in bad faith, which are expressed in words of hate and mockery; and there are disagreements and criticisms expressed with love and always presented with the eyes of faith”, Tornielli continued.

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For the record

It is exactly this political polarisation around Pope Francis that Tornielli admitted is his greatest worry in his work supervising Vatican communications.

“I worry that we’re not able to get the Pope’s message across properly and in its entirety. I am concerned about the risk of reasoning by soundbites, of simplifying, instead of accounting for all of the elements of the reality that we communicate”, said Tornielli.

Tornielli had no doubts, however, as to how he’d summarise Francis’ pontificate in a headline.

“My headline would be: ‘Francis is the Pope of mercy’. Truly mercy is the word and experience that best describes his teaching, his message, his testimony”, he said.

‘Mercy’ understood as “the possibility of all, offered to all, in any condition, to feel the embrace of a God who is a good Father, who loves us and who tries to do everything to approach us, especially those who have fallen”, Tornielli explained.

See also:

Pope rips “hypocrisy” of arms trade, refusal to take in refugees


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.