from TheONION.com January 14, 1998

Pope Calls For Greater Understanding Between Catholics, Hellbound

VATICAN CITY -- In an address before over 250,000 followers assembled outside St. Peter's Basilica, Pope John Paul II reaffirmed his commitment to global religious unity, calling upon the world's Roman Catholics to "build a bridge of earthly friendship" between themselves and the eternally damned.

"We have been aloof too long," the Pope told the throng of well-wishers who crowded into Vatican Square. "For too many years, otherwise pious, observant Catholics have not made enough of an effort to reach out to nonbelievers, reasoning that, since they would have no contact with them in the next life, there was little point in getting to know them in this one."

"This indifference on the part of Catholics has, throughout history, had dire consequences," the Holy Father said. "During the Holocaust, the Church stood silently by while six million fellow human beings, guilty of nothing but the murder of Christ Our Lord, descended to the depths of brimstone at the hands of Protestants. Our intervention in that affair could have averted a monumental tragedy, and, more important, might have converted the souls of untold multitudes of evil heretics to the Holy Word of God."

"But even when no such tragedy has occurred," His Holiness continued, "Roman Catholicism, simply by withdrawing from all contact with false belief systems, has wrongly come to view itself as the only religion on earth, rather than merely the only True One. And that is arrogant. So I say today that we must commit ourselves to opening a dialogue. Let us, with open hearts and minds, talk to our brethren of every denomination, be they Pharisees, apostates, Mussulmen or assorted other vile abominations upon whom Our Lord casts down his ultimate, eternal punishment amidst the searing lake of fire. Let us strive to understand why they prefer a lifetime of sinful defiance and an eternity of excruciating torment. Let us encourage among them an open exchange of heresies, blasphemies and anathema. For only by fostering a spirit of love and goodwill among all human beings, even the most wayward of the flock, can the Church divert them from their sinful, hellbound path."

Following the Pope's address, papal nuncio Msgr. Francisco Sevellino announced his intention to form an inter-faith council that will meet in the Vatican once a month and discuss issues relating to tolerance and understanding among all religions. Sevellino said the council will be composed of "an international team of rabbis, ministers, bonzes, imams and The Saved."


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