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OpinionCommentaryPope Francis Visit

Pope Francis has message for both liberals and conservatives

A completed mural of Pope Francis is viewed

A completed mural of Pope Francis is viewed on the side of a building in midtown Manhattan on Sept. 21, 2015 in Manhattan.

If you love Donald Trump, you will hate Pope Francis. But if you hate Trump and all that he stands for, you may not like Francis' message, either.

That is why Francis' visit to the United States, especially during a presidential election cycle, is likely to stir controversy among the right and the left.

The first Jesuit and the first non-European elected to the papacy, Argentine Jorge Bergoglio has set in motion momentous changes in the Roman Catholic Church since becoming pope in 2013. In fact, he has transformed the papacy by spurning the medieval perks of office, even waiting in line for his dentist appointment. Francis is on a mission for church renewal and his impact will be profound.

But is he -- the first pope to address the U.S. Congress -- also a man for America?

In a superficial sense, the 78-year-old pontiff is. Any American celebrity would die to have the his global iconic status. He was Time's 2013 Person of the Year, and the first pontiff to grace the cover of the Rolling Stone magazine. Presidential candidates would salivate at his people skills.

Yet, Francis is the antithesis of the values of American popular culture. His rejection of trickle-down economics and his characterization of libertarian capitalism as "an economy of exclusion and inequality," an "imperialism of money," and "an economy that kills" have earned him the wrath of American conservatives.

Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has told his listeners that Francis "doesn't know what he is talking about when it comes to capitalism and socialism," and that his economic ideas are "pure Marxism."

American neocon and theocon Catholics, too, do not mince words when criticizing Francis' condemnation of an economic system that thrives on the "absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation."

Even the U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, whose pronounced predilection for the splendor of lace and 20-yard scarlet-red trains has earned him derision, dismisses Francis' economic ideas as mere "suggestions" and not papal authoritative teaching.

Of course, Pope Francis' critique of capitalism has its supporters. Robert B. Reich, former U.S. secretary of labor, has said pretty much the same thing in his book, "Aftershock: The Next Economy & America's Future."

Two other concerns of Pope Francis meet fierce opposition from American conservatives. His encyclical on the environment was lambasted by those who think the ecological crisis is fabricated by anti-capitalism and anti-oil business liberals. And he would be horrified by Trump's and other Republican presidential candidates' attitude toward immigrants.

Many American liberals, especially Catholics, while appreciative of the pope's view on the economy, environment and immigration, may not lend him a sympathetic ear, either. They may tune him out when he condemns "the throwaway culture," the "thirst for power and possessions," consumerism, the wanton destruction of the unborn, the warehousing of the elderly, the relentless quest for "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," and secularism.

These are endemic features of American lifestyle, in which liberals no less than conservatives participate. Furthermore, many liberals will find Francis' doctrinal stance toward gay marriage, artificial birth control and women in the priesthood as distinct from his personal attitude of inclusion and acceptance.

Pope Francis will not be bothered by the popularity index. He will say not what Americans -- whether liberals or conservatives -- want to hear, but what they need to. In this way, he can be a "man for America" as he lays out his vision of what the country can and should be.