Pope Francis steps off his plane. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis defended his statements on the economy during comments made to reporters on his plane ride from Cuba to the United States on Tuesday.

“There have already been discussions about a communist Pope, now there are even those who speak of a Pope who isn’t Catholic. In the face of these considerations, what do you think?” asked reporter Gian Guido Vecchi, according to the transcript published by Catholic News Service.

“I am certain I have never said anything more than what is in the social doctrine of the church,” he said, according to CNS. “I follow the church and in this I do not think I am wrong.”

Pope Francis told the story relayed to him that a woman asked if he is the anti-pope because he does not wear red shoes.

 

“Maybe I have given an impression of being a little bit to the left,” the pope said. “And it if necessary, I’ll recite the creed. I am available to do that, eh.”

Pope Francis also briefly talked about what he will tell Congress on Thursday. He plans to speak in general terms about “bilateral relations and multinational relations as a sign of progress and coexistence,” he said. He will not discuss the Cuba embargo.

“Both presidents have referred to this,” he said. “My desire is that they end up with a good result, that they reach an accord that says satisfies both sides, an accord, certainly.”

The pope also suggested that more Cuban prisoners may be freed in the future and called life imprisonment “a hidden death penalty.”

Francis said the trip to Cuba was unexpected. He said he had hoped to enter the United States through Mexico, but the plan changed when Cuban President Raul Castro and President Barack Obama announced they had an agreement normalize relations.

Reporters asked Pope Francis about his private, “spontaneous” meeting with former Castro and whether he thought Castro had “regretted” of having treated the Catholic Church so harshly.

“Regret is a very intimate thing, and it’s a thing of conscience,” he said. He said he spoke of Jesuits Castro has known and of the pope’s encyclical on the environment “because he is very interested in the theme of ecology.”

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