Pope Francis has encouraged his flock of 1 billion Catholics not to be “starched Christians” who chat about theology over tea.
He’s been taking his own advice.
Since his election in March, Francis has shown a penchant for delivering blunt and unscripted remarks on everything from homosexuality to atheism to his unlikely election to the seat of St. Peter.
Whoever wagered that the 76-year-old Jesuit from Argentina would become the pope “must have won a lot,” Francis joked on Sunday.
We’re betting this pope’s got a few more surprises up his white cassock. Meanwhile, here are six eye-openers Francis has uttered thus far.
1) There’s a “gay lobby” inside the Vatican
Meeting with Catholic leaders from his native Latin America and the Caribbean on Sunday, the pope said that there’s a lot of holy people in the Curia, Catholicism’s Rome-based bureaucracy.
But there is also a “stream of corruption,” Francis said, including a “gay lobby.”
“We need to see what we can do,” he added, somewhat cryptically.
Only the pope knows exactly what he means. The Vatican has clammed up, refusing to explain.
Catholic experts believe Francis was referring to a secret dossier presented to his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI that investigated a series of embarrassing leaks from Vatican insiders to Italian journalists.
The dossier referred to a Vatican network of sexually active gay clergy who might have been subject to blackmail, according to Italian reports.
2) All atheists go to heaven?
During a homily in Rome on May 22, Francis said that God redeems everyone — not just Christians, but atheists, as well.
“We must meet one another doing good,” the pope said. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”
So, was the pope saying that atheists can go to heaven if they don’t believe in Jesus?
Probably not, say church experts. Catholicism has long held that salvation is open to everyone — but with a really big caveat. If you know about the church and don’t become a member, the door to heaven is likely closed, a Catholic spokesman later clarified.
Many American atheists say they appreciated the olive branch from the pope, however unclear his remarks may have been.
3) “I didn’t want to be pope”
Meeting with Catholic students from Italy and Albania on June 7, Francis ditched his “boring” speech and instead took questions from the children.
A little redhead in a blue scarf elicited laughter by bluntly asking, “Francis, why did you want to become pope?”
“I didn’t,” Francis answered. In fact, “a person who wants to become pope doesn’t love himself. And God doesn’t bless him,” the pontiff said.
4) Sleepy prayers
In May, the pope shared intimate details about his spiritual life with a crowd of 200,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
Every day, Francis said, he prays at an altar before he goes to bed. On occasion, the sandman arrives before the end of his prayers, the pope said.