Mario Palmaro, a traditionalist writer who co-authored an article critical of Pope Francis, received a phone call Nov.1 from the Pope himself, who knew that the writer is suffering from a grave illness.

Palmaro shared with CNA Nov. 22 that "Pope Francis wanted to act as a priest; yet he is a very special priest and bishop, by calling me and paying attention to my health condition."

According to Palmaro, one of the features of the new pontificate is "the Pope's phone calls to people, who luckily represent many other people who do not receive a papal phone call."

"It is the kind of attention Pope Francis wants to show for sick people."

"He just wanted to tell me that he is praying for me," Palmaro explained of the Pope.

Palmaro recounted that the phone call lasted "just some minutes", and they "only talked about a few things, because I was so moved from the phone call that I was not able to conduct so much conversation. Indeed, for a Catholic, getting a Pope's phone call is unbelievable."

Pope Francis called Palmaro's home, and when his wife answered the phone, he could hear a "known voice asking her if it was my house and if she was my wife."

After getting affirmative answers, Pope Francis continued: "Madam, I have know that your husband is very sick, and I would like to speak with him."

During the conversation, Palmaro reminded the Pope that he had co-authored an article in which he criticized him.

The article was written together with Alessandro Gnocchi, and published in Italian newspaper "Il Foglio" Oct. 9 with the headline, "The reason why we don't like this Pope."

Gnocchi and Palmaro criticized passages in both the Pope's major interviews, published in "La Repubblica" and in "La Civilta Cattolica."

In the interview in "La Repubblica", conducted by Eugenio Scalfari, Pope Francis was reported as saying that "everyone has is own idea of good and evil, and must choose to follow the good and combat the evil in the way he conceives them."

Palmaro and Gnocchi quoted John Paul II's encyclical Veritatis Splendor, and concluded that newspapers were honest in contrasting Pope Francis' words with those of his predecessors, and in highlighting the contrasts in their headlines.

The two also focused on Pope Francis' assertion about the Second Vatican Council in the La Civilta Cattolica interview, in which he said, "Vatican II was a re-reading of the Gospel in light of contemporary culture."

Gnocchi and Palmaro, however, argued that "the world is not anymore shaped in light of the Gospel, while the Gospel is deformed in the light of the world."

Pope Francis has met many of their criticisms with adjustments of his own.

In a Nov. 22 article at "L'Espresso", Sandro Magister noticed that Pope Francis has recently both had the La Repubblica interview removed from the Vatican website, where it had been posted among his speeches, and has also modified his judgement of Vatican II, "distancing himself from the progressive currents that have applauded him until now."

Palmaro maintained, however, that he cannot "state objectively that Pope Francis met our criticisms."

He did add though, that Pope Francis has responded to the article he co-authored.

"We were aware, and we wanted, to open a debate, and even to pay the consequences of what we were going to write. After six months of the pontificate, in the midst of the huge consensus the Pope had, we found it impossible that no-one would bring up some questions."

He added, "we did not want to judge the Pope as a human person. We distinguish the action from the person."

When he got the phone call, Palmaro said he felt a "duty to tell the Pope that I criticized him. I did not think he would have read my articles, but I thought I was a coward in receiving such a great gift as a Pope's phone call and not being sincere with him."

Pope Francis responded saying that he "understood that the critics had been moved by love for the Pope."

Palmaro concluded that "critics are useful, and the decisions taken during these last days confirmed me of the existence of the problems I highlighted together with my colleague Gnocchi."