Pope Francis said on Wednesday that he is honored to be attacked by American conservatives who would like to bring down his pontificate.
Aboard the papal plane en route to Mozambique, the pope was addressing French journalist Nicolas Séneze from the Catholic newspaper La Croix, who has just given him a copy of his new book criticizing U.S. conservative Catholics.
In his book titled How America Wants to Change the Pope, the author alleges that accusations by the former papal nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, were actually an attempt by American conservatives to force the Pope to resign.
A year ago, Archbishop Viganò published a bombshell report claiming that he had personally informed Pope Francis in 2013 of the serial homosexual abuse of then-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, but the pope had reinstated McCarrick to a position of influence in the Vatican.
Since the efforts of the Americans to force Francis to resign have failed — Séneze proposes in his book — their efforts have now turned to the conclave that will elect the next pope to make sure that no one from the “Bergoglian” school will be chosen.
According to the Amazon summary of the text, Senèze alleges that American conservatives with deep pockets seek to “overthrow the pope and prepare the post-Francis era.” They especially take issue with the pope’s “criticism of neo-liberal American capitalism, his condemnation of the death penalty, and his openness to and non-condemnation of homosexuality.”
Among those plotting the pope’s downfall, Senèze names EWTN, founded by the late Mother Angelica, and the Canada-based LifeSiteNews.
The newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference Avvenire said that Pope Francis “listened attentively” to the summary that Séneze made of his book and that the pontiff remarked that he had already heard something about it.
“It is an honor for me to be attacked by the Americans,” the pope said.
Then turning to hand the book to one of his staff, Francis said, “This is a bomb.”
Word of what the pope had said quickly made the rounds of the reporters aboard the plane, causing some consternation especially among the American journalists.
Not long after, the papal spokesman and director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, made his way to the section of the plane reserved for journalists to issue a clarification, spinning the pope’s words in an unlikely direction.
“In an informal context, the Pope wished to say that he always considers criticism an honor, particularly when it comes from authoritative thinkers and, in this case, from an important nation,” he said.
The pope’s words regarding Americans do not come as a great surprise to close followers of his pontificate, who are well aware of the pontiff’s general dislike of the yanquis (Yankees).
In 2016, veteran Vatican journalist John L. Allen wrote that a “defining feature both of Francis’ personality and his approach to governance … is a distinct ambivalence about the United States and about Americans.”