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Pope Francis Warns Against 'Curse' of Worldliness, Says Going to Church Doesn't Make You a Good Person

( [email protected] ) Mar 06, 2015 02:18 PM EST

Pope Francis
''There is a curse on the person who trusts in the world and a blessing on the one who trusts in the Lord,'' Pope Francis said in a recent sermon. He waves as he leaves at the end of the general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 4, 2015. REUTERS/Max Rossi

Pope Francis recently warned against the "subtle sin" of worldliness and emphasized that going to church does not necessarily make you a good person.

During his homily at Mass Thursday in the chapel of the Saint Martha residence in the Vatican, the Pope referenced Jesus' parable of the rich man and Lazarus found in the Gospel of Luke. In the parable, the rich man wears fine clothing and eats lavish meals, but does not notice the plight of Lazarus, a beggar who sits near his house, starving and covered in sores.

The Pope said that the rich man in Jesus' story was likely not an evil man, but "the eyes of his soul were certainly tinted so as not to see."

"Maybe he was a religious man, in his own way," Francis said. "Maybe he prayed and a couple times a year he surely went up to the temple to offer sacrifices and he gave big donations to the priests, who in their clerical cowardice would thank him and give him a seat of honor."

However, despite the rich man's "good deeds," he was unable to recognize the man in need of help on his very doorstep.

Applying the parable to modern day, Pope Francis explained that people who believe they are religious are actually filled with worldliness, which prevents them from seeing the suffering of those around them.

"With a worldly heart you can go to church, you can pray, you can do many things," Francis said, "But if your heart is worldly you cannot understand the needs and hardships of others."

The disease of worldliness, the Pope warned, is not just a "subtle sin," but "a sinful state of the soul."

Worldliness "transforms souls, making them lose touch with reality. They live in an artificial world of their own making," and can't see the reality around them, he said.

"There is a curse on the person who trusts in the world and a blessing on the one who trusts in the Lord," Francis added. "[The rich man's soul] is a desert and an inhabitable wasteland," because worldly people "are alone with their selfishness."

However, at the end of the parable, Jesus provides hope for the world.  When the rich man appeals to Abraham, a representation of God, Abraham calls him "my son." The parable is revealing that "we have a father who waits for us," the Pope said. "In the midst of our worldliness, He calls us his children. We are not orphans," he said.

Pope Francis, who became the leader of the Catholic Church nearly two years ago, is viewed favorably by Catholics and Protestants alike, according to a recent poll.

The latest Pew Research Center Survey found that while the Pope is most widely admired by Catholics (90%), an impressive six-in-ten Protestants and two-thirds of the religiously unaffiliated also view him with "great favor."  According to NBC, the Pope's popularity has eclipsed any numbers his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, ever posted and puts him on par with Pope John Paul II in the 1980s and 1990s.

Writing for Christianity Today, author R.R. Reno argues that the reason for Pope Francis' sweeping popularity is partially due to his ability to "reframe the classic doctrine and morals of the Catholic Church so that a secular world can be converted and adhere to them."

Reno adds, "Evangelical Protestants, who today find themselves aligned with Catholics on many cultural issues-especially issues of life, marriage, and human sexuality-can welcome these reform efforts. In fact, they need a healthy Catholic Church as an ally. As we see a secular vision of morality and civic life grow aggressive and hostile, we are going to need each other."