Pope Francis assures atheists: You don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven


In comments likely to enhance his progressive reputation, Pope Francis has written a long, open letter to the founder of La Repubblican newspaper, Eugenio Scalfari, stating that non-believers would be forgiven by God if they followed their consciences.

Responding to a list of questions published in the paper by Mr Scalfari, who is not a Roman Catholic, Francis wrote: “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.

“Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.”

Robert Mickens, the Vatican correspondent for the Catholic journal The Tablet, said the pontiff’s comments were further evidence of his attempts to shake off the Catholic Church’s fusty image, reinforced by his extremely conservative predecessor Benedict XVI. “Francis is a still a conservative,” said Mr Mickens. “But what this is all about is him seeking to have a more meaningful dialogue with the world.”

In a welcoming response to the letter, Mr Scalfari said the Pope’s comments were “further evidence of his ability and desire to overcome barriers in dialogue with all”.

In July, Francis signalled a more progressive attitude on sexuality, asking: “If someone is gay and is looking for the Lord, who am I to judge him?”

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  • love humanity

    As a sister in humanity and a Muslim, I have to pose some concerns.

    That the Pope can issue statements that are not found in Christian scriptures which in fact contradict the entire purpose of religion (and still be followed) is something I find to be confusing.

    This statement “non-believers will be forgiven by God if they follow their consciences.” is not found in the Popes holy book, the Bible so on what authority has the Pope said this?

    It completely contradicts the need to believe in God which is THE fundamental concept in every monotheistic religion. No religion would teach ‘you dont need this religion’ if it was the truth.

    Islam teaches that religion is from God and not from man, – a principle I do believe we share with Christians and Jews.