VATICAN CITY—In a historic reversal of its nearly 2,000-year-old pro-meek stance, the Catholic Church announced Tuesday that it is permanently rescinding the traditional "blessed" status of the world's meek.

Pope John Paul II

"Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ once said, 'Blessed are the meek,'" said Pope John Paul II in a papal bull read before the College of Cardinals. "However, there has always been a tacit understanding between the Church and the meek that this 'blessed' status was conditional upon their inheritance of the earth, an event which seems unlikely to happen anytime in the foreseeable future. Our relationship, therefore, must be terminated."

"Screw the meek," the pope added.

Citing "two millennia of inaction and non-achievement" by the world's impoverished and downtrodden, the pope contended that the meek's historic inability to improve their worldly status constituted "bad faith" on their part.

"Twenty centuries should have been more than enough time for them to inherit the earth," the Supreme Pontiff said. "For years, the Catholic Church has made every effort to help them, but at some point, enough is enough. We are patient, but we are not saints."

Catholic leaders around the world were vocal in their support of the pope.

"The meek have abused their blessed status for far too long now," said Bernard Law, Archbishop of Boston. "From the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution to the current Global Information Age, the meek have always somehow managed to sit back and do nothing while others worked hard to make advances and improve their lives. They have collected the Catholic Church's spiritual welfare checks for long enough."

Some of the world's estimated 3.4 billion meek.

"Everything about the meek, from their simple garments to their quiet demeanors to their utter lack of can-do spirit, goes against Church philosophy," Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montréal said. "Sitting back and expecting the Lord to provide is not the type of behavior for which the Church should be rewarding its followers."

The change in policy toward the meek is also rooted in financial considerations: According to Vatican statistics, though more than 80 percent of the world's Catholics live below the poverty line, the Catholic Church receives less than 2 percent of its annual earnings of $395 billion from such people.

"The meek's blessed status was originally bestowed upon them by Jesus Christ Himself, but there is enough latitude in His gospels and teachings to allow us discretion in this manner," the pope said, "especially in light of the financial goals of the Church as it enters the 21st century. From this day forward, the Church position shall be, 'Blessed are the affluent, for they have indeed inherited the Earth.'"

In an effort to move away from its traditional meek core demographic and attract more upscale worshipers, Vatican officials announced a number of changes for the Gospels. Among them: Christ shall be said to have been born in a rustic-but-spacious birthing suite and not a manger, with the amount of gold and frankincense bestowed upon Him by the wise men quadrupled and the amount of myrrh halved; it shall henceforth be as easy for a rich man to enter Heaven as it is for a camel to pass through a heated three-car garage; and the episode between Christ and the moneylenders in the temple shall from now on be interpreted as an internecine argument over appropriately aggressive fundraising tactics.

According to Holy See spokesperson Salvatore Vittorio, a new Catholic Church payment plan has been established, with blessedness and God's everlasting love free of charge once a nominal baptism/membership fee has been paid. For an additional fee, Catholics can become "Gold Circle" members of the Church, entitling them to such perks as forgiveness, sainthood and special priority seating at the right hand of the Father upon death.

"We do not wish the Church to become completely exclusionary,' Vittorio said. "If any of the former meek wish to change their ways, they may certainly do so. But it won't be the free ride they got before, I can promise you that."

"The Lord will provide, of course," the pope said. "But He also helps those who help themselves, if you know what I mean."