23 September 2015, The Tablet

Capitalism key subject as Pope touches down in US

by Christopher Lamb in Washington

Defending his critiques of capitalism as mainstream Catholic Social Teaching, Pope Francis arrived in the United States on Tuesday. 

Speaking during an in-flight press conference on the papal plane from Cuba to the US the Pope joked that while he had given the impression of being a “little left” and had been accused of being a “communist”, Francis said he was willing to “recite the creed, if necessary.”  

The remarks will be read as subtle riposte to those who have taken issue with his stance on the global economy, the environment and immigration - and in a number of cases these have been American Catholics. 



“I believe that I never said a thing that wasn’t the social doctrine of the Church,” the Pope said. “Things can be explained, possibly an explanation gave an impression of being a little ‘to the left’, but it would be an error of explanation. No, my doctrine on this, in Laudato si’ [encyclical on climate change], on economic imperialism, all of this, is the social doctrine of the Church.”


Separately, when talking about prisoners in Cuba, Francis described life imprisonment as a “hidden death penalty”. During his US trip the Pope is due to visit a large prison in Philadelphia where he may talk about rehabilitation and the American criminal justice system. 

The Pope arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, Washington, on Tuesday afternoon where he was greeted by President Barack Obama and his family, including the president’s mother-in-law. Also present in the greeting ceremony were the Vice-President, Joe Biden, a Catholic, and the American hierarchy.  

His trip marks the 50th anniversary of the first papal visit to the United States by Pope Paul VI. 

From the airport Francis travelled in a small Fiat car to the residence of the papal ambassador to the United States. 

Washington has been hotly anticipating the papal visit with numerous groups - campaigning on climate change, immigration reform and abortion - seeking to take advantage of the Pope’s presence in the American capital as a way of highlighting their causes. 

President Obama greets the Pope at Andrews Air Force BasePresident Obama greets the Pope at Andrews Air Force Base (PA)


On Wednesday morning Francis was due to meet with the president at the White House and on Thursday was set to become the first Pope to address Congress.  

During the in-flight press conference Francis said that he would not talk about the trade embargo on Cuba during his congress speech. The Holy See has long been opposed to that embargo although reportedly the US, for the first time, may abstain on a United Nations vote on the matter. 


The Pope will address the UN in New York on Friday, the same day discussions start at the UN on the Sustainable Development Goals. It is expected that one of these goals will be to urge a global deal to be agreed on climate change at a UN gathering in Paris in December. The Pope timed his encyclical on climate change this year to try and influence these talks. 

On Sunday, the Pope will travel to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, the original driver behind his visit to the US, where he will celebrate the closing Mass for the gathering. 



Follow all the latest news and events from the Pope's visit to Cuba and the US via The Tablet's Twitter feed @the_tablet

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