Pope Francis kisses a baby as he leads the weekly general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Max Rossi
It is better to be an atheist than a hypocritical Catholic, said Pope Francis during his improvised comments at his private morning Mass at his residence on Thursday, the Reuter reported.
"It is a scandal to say one thing and do another. That is a double life… "There are those who say 'I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this and that association'," the Pope said, according to a Vatican Radio transcript.
The head of the 1.2 billion strong Roman Catholic Church added that some of these people should also say "'my life is not Christian, I don't pay my employees proper salaries, I exploit people, I do dirty business, I launder money, (I lead) a double life'."
"There are many Catholics who are like this and they cause scandal," he said. "How many times have we all heard people say 'if that person is a Catholic, it is better to be an atheist'."
Since his election in 2013, Francis has often told Catholics, both priests and lay people, to practice what their religion preaches.
In his often impromptu sermons, he has condemned sexual abuse of children by priests as being tantamount to a "Satanic Mass", said Catholics in the mafia excommunicate themselves, and told his own cardinals to not act as if they were "princes".
Less than two months after his election, he said Christians should see atheists as good people if they do good.
The unconventional Pope has often spoken empathetically about the gay community, exploited women and children, the arms industry: "I believe the church should apologise not only to the person who is gay whom it has offended, but has to apologise to the poor, to exploited women, to children exploited for labour; it has to ask forgiveness for having blessed many weapons".