The Pontiff believes that hypocritical Catholics are “scandalous,” not faithful to true Christian life.

Being an atheist is preferable to being a “hypocritical Catholic,” according to Pope Francis. And to the Pope, being an atheist doesn’t mean a person is going to hell. His comments can be very shocking to people who have otherwise seen the Catholic Church as an organization that requires every person to be Catholic to go to heaven.

The Pope made these new comments during the daily private mass at his residence. Pope Francis, who has always been known to be friendly towards atheists and non-believers, was clearly attacking Catholics who lived a religious life, but did not practice their faith in actions.

The Pope described the Catholics he was talking about as people who constantly make it a point to tell people they are Catholic, attend mass regularly, join various Catholic church groups and sodalities and involve themselves in a number of Catholic activities. These people, he says, never really practice what Christ preached. He insisted that these people should also tell people that they don’t lead a Christian life, they don’t pay their workers, they gossip, they launder money and so on. The Pope believes that these Catholics are dangerous and can cause scandal.

One of the main reason that Pope Francis is lauded by everyone us that he doesn’t shy away from addressing issues directly, even if they are within the Church. Rather than get defensive, Pope Francis openly condemns negative elements in the Church. In the past, the Pope openly recognized the problem of child abuse in the Church and declared that it amounted to a ‘Satanic mass.’ He also condemned the people involved in the mafia, saying that they were automatically ‘excommunicated.’ At another time, he warned pastors to stop living luxurious lives and suggested them to shift to more humble dwellings.

When the Pope said that even atheists can go to heaven, it may have signaled one of the biggest shifts in Church doctrines ever. His long-standing friendship with a Jewish rabbi, who recently visited him at the Vatican with a group of Jewish scholars and presented a new version of the Torah to him, is symbolic of the Church’s changing attitudes towards Judaism. The Church has a long history of being anti-Semitic.

The Pope’s recent comments are yet another example of how the Pope wants to proactively tackle the problems that are assailing the Catholic Church today. 

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