Pope suggests 'better to be atheist than hypocritical Catholic'

VATICAN CITY (REUTERS) - Pope Francis criticised some members of his own Church on Thursday (Feb 23), suggesting that it's better to be an atheist than one of "many" Catholics who he says lead a double life.

The comments delivered in a sermon broadcast on Vatican Radio, in which the Pope said that hypocritical Catholics should admit "'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 scandals. 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, the Pope has often told Catholics, both priests and lay people, to practice what their religion preaches.

It is also not the first time he's expressed compassion for atheists. Less than two months after his election, Pope Francis said all human beings, even atheists, can be redeemed, and that Christians should see atheists as good people if they do good.