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In a recent interview, Pope Francis said he is not a Marxist but that even Marxists can be good people.

Pope Francis was responding to conservative criticisms that his economic and social ideas smack of communism.

He also denied reports that he would name a woman cardinal, said there was good progress in cleaning up Vatican finances and confirmed that he would visit Israel and the Palestinian territories next year, Italian newspaper La Stampa reported.

Last month, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who has a huge following in the US, railed against Pope Francis for written comments made on the world economy.

Rush Limbaugh, who is not Catholic, said that parts of the document were “pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the Pope” and suggested that someone else had written the papal document for him. He also accused the Pope of going “beyond Catholicism” and being “purely political”.

Asked about the accusations, which sparked a debate in the media and blogosphere last month, Pope Francis, a member of the all-male Jesuit order associated with progressive social policies, said: “Marxist ideology is wrong. But in my life I have known many Marxists who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.”

He has also been criticized by other conservatives.

Rush Limbaugh railed against Pope Francis for written comments made on the world economy

Rush Limbaugh railed against Pope Francis for written comments made on the world economy

In last month’s document, seen as a platform for his papacy, Pope Francis attacked unfettered capitalism as “a new tyranny” said an “economy of exclusion and inequality” had proven to be deadly for many people around the world.

In his response to the critics, Pope Francis said he was not speaking “as a technician but according to the social doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, and this does not mean being Marxist”. He said he was just trying to present a “snapshot of what is happening” in the world today.

In another document last week, Pope Francis said huge salaries and bonuses were symptoms of an economy based on greed and called again for nations to narrow the wealth gap.

Conservatives in the 1.2 billion member Church have expressed concern and disappointment about some of the pope’s pronouncements, such as when he said he was not in a position to judge gays who are people of good will sincerely seeking God.

Asked about speculation that a woman could be among the new cardinals he will appoint early next year, Pope Francis said: “I don’t know where that idea comes from. Women in the Church should be valued, not <<clericalized>>.”

In other parts of the interview, Francis also said a committee of eight cardinals from around the world who are advising him on changes to the Vatican structure would make its first formal recommendations to him in February but that reform would be a “lengthy task”.

He said that reform of the Vatican’s sometimes murky finances was “on the right path” and expressed satisfaction that last week a Council of Europe committee called Moneyval gave the Vatican a good evaluation of its efforts to abide by international financial standards.

Pope Francis said he had not yet decided what to do about the Vatican bank, which has been touched by scandals over the decades. In the past he has not ruled out closing it.

He said he was “getting ready” to go to the Holy Land next year to mark the 50th anniversary of when Pope Paul VI became the first pope in modern times to visit there.

Pope Francis has been invited by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to make a visit, which is expected to take place in May or June.

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Former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton has told how talk show host Rush Limbaugh made fun of her looks when she was 13 years old by comparing her to a dog.

Chelsea Clinton, 32, said she identified with Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke, who was branded a “slut” and a “prostitute” by Rush Limbaugh, during a panel about women in politics last week.

“She and I actually have something in common. We’ve both have been attacked by Rush Limbaugh,” Chelsea Clinton said.

She added: “She was 30. I was 13.”

Chelsea Clinton recalls how Rush Limbaugh made fun of her looks when she was 13 years old by comparing her to a dog

Chelsea Clinton recalls how Rush Limbaugh made fun of her looks when she was 13 years old by comparing her to a dog

Chelsea Clinton was referring to the 1993 incident in which Rush Limbaugh mocked her appearance.

“Socks is the White House cat. But did you know there is also a White House dog?” Rush Limbaugh had said, before showing an image of the young Chelsea Clinton.

“I’m grateful I don’t remember the exact phrasing,” Chelsea Clinton said during the debate.

“Thankfully I had grown up in public life and knew that having thick skin was a survival skill.”

“I do also believe if you have the right type of enemies you’re doing something correct,” Chelsea Clinton added.

Rush Limbaugh apologized after both incidents but his comments about Sandra Fluke caused widespread condemnation, prompting high-profile advertisers to pull out from his radio show.

During the panel with Chelsea Clinton, the law student said she hoped the conservative host’s comments had not put other women off speaking out in the future.

“I was worried they would think, <<I should sit down and shut up, because if I speak out, this is what happens>> … I want women to see this as an empowering moment,” Chelsea Clinton said.

Hilary Clinton also weighed in on the debate during an interview with MSNBC this week.

“As a woman and as someone who can vaguely remember being a young woman, and as a mother of a young woman of that age and generation, I thought the response was very encouraging,” Hillary Clinton said.

“The response from the public, the response from women cutting across all kinds of categories, the response from advertisers, so I’ll let that speak for itself.”

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