Pope Francis made some ears perk up today during his homily by saying that even atheists have salvation through their good deeds.
In a story he told of a Catholic having a conversation with a priest, the Pope made clear that salvation is found through good deeds, not belief in Christ.
“Just do good, and we’ll find a meeting point,” said the Pontiff.
“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone!”
Of course, this is nothing new to Christianity. Anyone who has read the New Testament knows that Jesus gave himself for the sins of all, not just some. But it is a pretty big deal when the Pope says it, especially after the reign of Pope Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict the XVI. Pope Benedict was known for his much more conservative approach, moving to restore the Catholic Church to where it stood before the Second Vatican Council, the meetings in the 1960s that gave us the modernized Church we know today.
Part of Pope Benedict XVI’s platform was a controversial move to reaffirm the Catholic Church as the only true path to Christ, the only actual ‘church’ to be founded by the Savior, and the only one to recognize the Pope. Since it was well known that “outside the church there is no salvation,” this, of course, left many other Christians feeling like they were “second-class believers.” But this, by no means, was Pope Benedict XVI’s idea alone. Going all the way back to Pope Innocent III in 1215, the idea that there is only salvation within the Catholic Church has been a primary strategy for retaining and growing church membership.
In saying that belief in Christ is not necessary for salvation, Pope Francis is abandoning that strategy altogether. However, by embracing everyone and refraining from demonizing atheists or chastising non-Catholics, the Pope may be on the right track toward delivering more believers to a Church that many, even some Catholics, have, thus far, seen as outdated.