In impromptu remarks made during yesterday's Mass in his residence, Pope Francis shocked many by declaring that atheists can be just as good as Catholics if they "do good."

Referencing a passage from the Gospel of Mark in his homily, the Pope recounted the story of a priest who told an inquiring Catholic that Jesus redeemed everyone, even atheists, and all he asks in return is that people "do good and do not do evil."

"The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone!" the Pope quoted the priest as saying.

"Father, the atheists?," the skeptical Catholic responded. "Even the atheists. Everyone!" the priest replied, and added: "We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there."

The Guardian notes that Pope Francis's ongoing efforts to unite all people, both believers and nonbelievers, stands in stark contrast to approach of his predecessors — particularly Benedict, "who sometimes prompted complaints from non-Catholics that he seemed to see them as second-class believers."

Catholic Online has already embraced the newly christened Pope's message, taking it a step further by declaring that atheists can "go to heaven too."

[photo via AP]