While the mainstream media continue to praise almost everything Pope Francis says and does, there are many within the Catholic Church who are concerned about the radical approach of the so-called ‘people’s pontiff’.
To give you an idea of his new vision for the Church, we’ve put together 10 of Pope Francis’ most controversial statements to date which will likely increase over the course of this pontificate:
You don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven
In an open letter to Eugenio Scalfari, the founder of Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper, pope Francis answered questions from readers that were sent in. One of them was about the possibility of an atheist going to heaven.
“The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience. Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience”.
Tells Muslims we are ‘children of the same God’
After washing the feet of several Muslim refugees at a Holy Thursday Mass, the pope said “All of us together, Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelical [Protestants] brothers and sisters — children of the same God — we want to live in peace, integrated.”
‘Who am I to judge?’ when asked about gay lifestyles
Speaking to reporters on a flight back from Brazil in 2013, the pope said “[If] someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
The Bible and the Koran ‘are the same’
During an hour-long speech at the Vatican, the pope said that the Koran and the spiritual teachings contained therein, were just as valid as the bible.
“Jesus Christ, Jehovah, Allah. These are all names employed to describe an entity that is distinctly the same across the world.
Evolution is real, God did not wave a ‘magic wand’
Speaking at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Vatican City in 2014, the pope said that the theories of evolution and the Big Bang were real and that God did not wave a ‘magic wand’ to create the universe.
“God is not a demiurge [or demigod] or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life. Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve” he said.
Communists are secret Christians
Pope Francis, whose criticisms of unbridled capitalism have prompted some to label him a Marxist, said in an interview published two years ago that communists had stolen the flag of Christianity.
“I can only say that the communists have stolen our flag. The flag of the poor is Christian. Poverty is at the center of the Gospel … Communists say that all this is communism. Sure, twenty centuries later. So when they speak, one can say to them, ‘But then you are a Christian’.”
Women in the Catholic priesthood
Pope Francis told the heads of women’s religious orders from around the world that he would set up a commission to study the New Testament deaconesses and he also insisted more can and should be done to involve lay and consecrated women in church decision-making at every level.
Asked if he would establish “an official commission to study the question” of whether women could be admitted to the diaconate, Pope Francis responded: “I accept. It would be useful for the church to clarify this question. I agree.”
It’s better for couples to live together than marry in Church
In off-the-cuff remarks, the pope made the dual claim that the “great majority” of Catholic marriages are “null” – in other words, not actual marriages – and that couples who live together “have the grace of a real marriage”.
“I’ve seen a lot of fidelity in these cohabitations, and I am sure that this is a real marriage, they have the grace of a real marriage because of their fidelity,” he said.
Catholics shouldn’t breed ‘like rabbits’
On his return trip from the Philippines in 2015, Pope Francis said that it’s not true that to be a good Catholic “you have to be like rabbits”. On the contrary, he said “responsible parenthood” requires that couples regulate the births of their children.
It’s okay to use contraceptives sometimes
Speaking to reporters aboard a Vatican plane, Pope Francis suggested that it was okay to use condoms and that ‘avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil’.
The pope’s spokesman Fr. Lombardi later clarified these comments by saying “The contraceptive or condom, in particular cases of emergency or gravity, could be the object of discernment in a serious case of conscience. This is what the Pope said.”