Washington: Pope Francis thanked American nuns in a television special to be aired Friday, defusing tensions that arose after an investigation under the previous pontiff accused them of promoting "radical feminist themes."
The pope, who will travel to the United States later this month, made the comments via teleconference to an immigrant welcome center at a Texas church earlier this week for the ABC News special.
"I'll tell you one other thing. Is it unseemly for the pope to say this? I love you all very much," Pope Francis said to US Catholic sisters, after calling forward one sister in particular.
Sister Norma Pimentel runs the welcome center at Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, Texas and the audience was intended to share immigrants' stories with Pope Francis, 78.
After listening to those stories, he called Pimentel forward.
"I want to thank you," the pontiff said. "And through you to thank all the sisters of religious orders in the US for the work that you have done and that you do in the United States."
In 2012, under Pope Benedict's leadership, the Vatican launched an investigation of the main US nun group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, saying the LCWR was promoting "radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith."
The group was taken over by Vatican officials who examined its commitment to church doctrine on subjects like homosexuality, abortion and priesthood.
That investigation wrapped up somewhat unexpectedly in April after Pope Francis met US sisters in Rome. The LCWR agreed to ensure its publications, events and statutes are sound in doctrine and the Vatican praised the sisters' work.
The estimated 57,000 Catholic sisters in the US play a central role running schools and social programs, such as the immigration center the pope spoke to.
In the special, the pope also spoke to homeless people in Los Angeles and at an inner-city school in Chicago, where he invited a teenager who had been bullied over her rare skin condition to sing for him.