Pope Francis calls attacks from conservative critics an 'honor'
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Pope FrancisPope FrancisPope on Europe's migrant crisis: 'stop this shipwreck of civilization' Pope calls on young people to protect environment The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Gosar censured as GOP drama heightens MORE on Wednesday said he welcomed attacks from conservatives in the Catholic Church who oppose his views as an "honor," Reuters reported.

The comment came while the pope was talking to French journalist Nicholas Seneze, author of a new book “How America Wants to Change Popes.”

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The book describes a network of conservative commentators, theologians and churchgoers in the U.S. who have criticized Francis, often through Catholic news outlets and foundations.

“It’s an honor that the Americans attack me,” the pontiff reportedly said, while adding he had not yet read Seneze's book.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni issued a statement to reporters flying with the pope to Mozambique clarifying the comment.

“The pope was speaking in an informal context in which he wanted to say that he always considers criticism an honor, particularly when it comes from authoritative thinkers, in this case, those in an important nation,” he said, per Reuters.

Francis has received criticism from more conservative members of the Catholic Church who disagree with his stances on immigrants and climate change and on theological issues.