Nigerian televangelist and Pastor Chris Okotie stands by the inflammatory comments he made during a recent church service in which he claimed that "all Catholics will go to hell" and called the pope "an Anti-Christ', among other things. The controversial preacher's remarks were widely reported online by Nigerian media and swiftly rebuked by religious and nonreligious readers.
Fifty-five year old Okotie, while preaching in his Household of God Church in Ikeja area of Lagos, western Nigeria, said the Catholic church is "a counterfeit church set up by Satan" and that Catholics "bow to idols and crucify Jesus every Sunday when they eat bread claiming they are eating Jesus' body."
"They are not Christians and have never been," Okotie told a stunned congregation.
"They don't know Jesus. They believe that when they eat bread on Sundays, they are eating the body of Jesus. It's ritual," Okotie said.
He said Pope Francis is an Anti-Christ who does the job of the devil and that time is fast approaching when the Catholic church will pledge allegiance to Satan.
"The pope is an Anti-Christ and the Catholic church will soon declare for Satan. This is the end of times," Okotie erupted.
Okotie reportedly also took swipes at T.B. Joshua, another popular Nigerian Christian minister and self-declared prophet, called the Synagogue Church of all Nations (SCOAN) founder a "son of the devil."
The controversial Christian minister, once a highly successful recording artist and aspiring politician, reportedly called on members of his Household of God Church to evangelize their Catholic neighbors in an effort to "rescue" them.
Okotie, who made the troubling remarks during a Sunday, Dec. 1 service, apparently confirmed on Wednesday that he stood by his sermon, writing on Twitter, "Re- Catholicism: Truth is bitter. It lacks saccharine delights."
Okotie's comments have understandably shocked Nigerians, as the African continent's most populous country is more than 40 percent Christian, with Roman Catholics numbering about 20 million.
"Judge not, that ye may not be judged. For every idle word men speak will stand against them in judgment," wrote one reader named Tari commenting on the PM News Nigeria story.
Another reader, identified as Martin, wrote: "I want to state emphatically that it is very unfortunate that 'Pastor' Chris Okotie is causing this kind of controversy on the basis of Mary the Mother of Jesus, and also the Mother of the Church, (whether) you like it or not."
Daisy, a reader on another website, declared, "I am really not one to comment on religious matters but this one is really pissing me off. Who gave this COW the right to judge another person or church? Is he God? Why (can't) he just concentrate on the people that choose to follow him?"
"Chris Okotie a politician calling himself a pastor…pastor my behind…he is very stupid wherever he is right now," wrote an irate reader named Grace, a self-identified Catholic.
Hundreds of other readers across Nigerian media expressed anger and disappointment at Pastor Okotie's inflammatory remarks, while many simply dismissed him in light of his failed prophecies about becoming the country's president.
Nigeria's Leadership newspaper quoted one Catholic man who agreed that Okotie should be ignored.
"What does the Rev. Okotie know about God, Christianity and the Bible? The Bible condemns divorce and polygamy but that is exactly what Okotie practices," said Paul Chukwudima. "Who made him a judge over the church and other children and servants of God? He is not fit to be called a man of God. What is the difference between him and those he is condemning and judging?"
The controversial charismatic preacher is also known for manning the pulpit with "enforcement," or body guards surrounding him. During the Dec. 8 service at his Household of God Church, when Okotie hosted the annual GRACE ceremony help raise funds for local charities, visibly armed guards were on full display.
The unmarried twice-divorced preacher has run for the Nigerian presidency twice but lost both times, despite claiming he had felt moved by God to submit his candidacy. Okotie founded his Pentecostal congregation in 1987 and has said during interviews that he was initially led to the ministry after "Jesus appeared to [him] when I [he] was three years old." The Household of God Church is one of Nigeria's largest and attracts an estimated 8,000 worshippers weekly.