Many websites have been running with the idea that the new Catholic Pope has rejected the notion of a literal Hell and validated all world religions in a strong statement against intolerance. Of course, this is just a hoax. The ‘Third Vatican Council’ (after Vatican I in 1869-70 and Vatican II in the 1960s) at which this was supposedly determined has never been called; there would have been extensive media coverage of catholic bishops from across the road descending on Rome. He did make a clumsy statement, however, suggesting that all people are redeemed, but this was quickly clarified by the Vatican.
The Pope, nevertheless, attracts interest due to overseeing more people of this one Christian denomination than exist in any other. The trouble is that, most adherents are nominal church attendees. (Pentecostal or charismatically-inclined Christians alone account for more than half a billion Christians and most attend church services far more regularly than most Catholics). Also, the papacy is a rather contaminated version of the original church of New Testament times. Catholicism has not only absorbed many extra-biblical traditions and teachings, but often disregards the fact that Protestant denominations arise to restore original truths and that orthodox traditions can reasonably lay claim to being the oldest form of Christianity.
In the end, the Bible (and not a pope or institution) remains the greatest source of objective truth attested to by changed lives, archaeological discoveries and timeless wisdom. Far from being discredited, its accuracy and validity has actually been affirmed, meaning that its message needs to be heeded and not blissfully ignored, due to the eternal and serious implications. Real intolerance in today’s world comes not from those who adhere to objective truth, but from those who selectively determine that one is not allowed any such adherence (the truth hurts!). For truth to be objective, after all, means we discover it, we don’t determine it, even if we declare it.
And what a discovery. One that continues to change lives. One that does not divide worlds and promote strife as is often conveniently alleged, for such evils are a product of the sinful human condition. Rather, it is the good news of a way of escape from imprisonment, intolerance and ignorance. It is the lamp for our feet and the light for our path, as Psalm 119:105 tells us.
It is also the living Word of a loving God who asks us to submit to Him as Lord, and not just as Saviour, where He can continue to speak to us for our service of Him and for our own growth and betterment.