Pope Francis, known for his heart for the poor, has declared that Communists have "stolen the flag of Christianity".
Having outwardly criticised capitalism in the past, denouncing "a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power," the Pope made his latest remarks in an interview with Il Messaggero – a local newspaper in Rome.
According to Reuters, Francis was asked about a blog post in Economist magazine that likened his call for economic reform to Leninism. He responded by suggesting that Communism has similar aims to Christianity in terms of the welfare of vulnerable people.
"I can only say that the Communists have stolen our flag. The flag of the poor is Christian. Poverty is at the centre of the Gospel," he said, going on to cite scripture which underlines the need to help those in need.
"Communists say that all this is Communism. Sure, 20 centuries later. So when they speak, one can say to them: 'but then you are Christian'," he added.
Agence France Presse reports that Francis also mentioned Kark Marx, noting that the founder of Communism "did not invent anything". It is not the first time that the Pontiff has candidly discussed Marxism, either - last year he told Italian newspaper La Stampa that "Marxist ideology is wrong. But in my life I have met a lot of Marxists who are good people".
The Pope has become well known for advocating on behalf of the poor, and working to protect and support the vulnerable. He has repeatedly called for a "poor church for the poor," declaring in his apostolic exhortation last year: "I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security".
Earlier this year, the Pope delivered a message to members of the World Economic Forum via an aid at its annual meering in Davos, Switzerland.
In his address, the Pope invited those attending the event to consider business and economics from a new perspective; "promoting an inclusive approach which takes into consideration the dignity of every human person and the common good".
He stated a belief that such an approach "ought to shape every political and economic decision", and suggested that those working in such sectors have a "precise responsibility" to protect the most vulnerable members of global society.
"It is intolerable that thousands of people continue to die every day from hunger, even though substantial quantities of food are available and often simple wasted," he stressed, before highlighting the plight of millions of refugees around the world.
"What is needed...is a renewed, profound and broadened sense of responsibility on the part of all...I ask you to ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it," he implored.
In his latest interview, the Pontiff also discussed the role of women in the Church, and insisted that conversation would be opened about the future of women within Catholicism.
"Women are the most beautiful things that God created," he said.
"The Church is woman. Church is a feminine word [in Italian]. One cannot do theology without this femininity. You are right that we don't talk about this enough. I agree that there must be more work on the theology of women. I have said that we are working in this sense."