It's not belief in God that counts, but a clean conscience that determines who gets to heaven, Pope Francis tells atheists in a letter written to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
The 2,500-word letter was a response to questions asked by the paper's co-founder and former editor, Eugenio Scalfari, over the summer about whether God forgives those who don't believe in him, The Independent of London reported.
Urgent: Should the Pope change the Catholic Church?
"You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don't believe and who don't seek the faith," the Pope wrote. "Given — and this is the fundamental thing — that God's mercy has no limits, if He is approached with a sincere and repentant heart, the question for those who do not believe in God is to abide by their own conscience."
"There is sin, also for those who have no faith, in going against one's conscience. Listening to it and abiding by it means making up one's mind about what is good and evil," he added.
According to The Independent, Scalfari appreciated the papal comments, saying they were "further evidence of his ability and desire to overcome barriers in dialogue with all."
This isn't the first time Pope Francis has offered an olive branch
to atheists. In May, he told a Catholic who asked if Jesus had redeemed atheists that the unbelievers should "just do good, and we'll find a meeting point."
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