Pope Francis Says Atheists Go to Heaven – Fiction!

Pope Francis Says Atheists Go to Heaven – Fiction!

Summary of eRumor: 

Pope Francis said the traditional notion of God is outdated and it’s not necessary to believe in god to be a good person.

The Truth:

There’s no record of Pope Francis saying that the church is outdated, or that you don’t have to believe in god to be a good person.

The eRumor surfaced on Facebook in early December of 2014 when hundreds of thousands of users “liked” and “shared” an alleged quote from Pope Francis:

“It is not necessary to believe in God to be a good person. In a way, the traditional notion of God is outdated. One can be spiritual but not religious. It is not necessary to go to church and give money — for many, nature can be a church. Some of the best people in history do not believe in God, while some of the worst deeds were done in His name.”

The post doesn’t cite a source, and it doesn’t appear to be a direct quote from any prominent religious or public figure. It does, however, loosely reflect remarks that Pope Francis made about atheists being redeemed during a homily in May of 2013:

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class. We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all. And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: We need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: We will meet one another there.”

Reports of Pope Francis’s homily went viral, and Vatican representatives quickly said his original meaning had been lost in translation. Fr. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican representative, explained:

“This means that all salvation comes from Christ, the Head, through the Church which is his body. Hence they cannot be saved who, knowing the Church as founded by Christ and necessary for salvation, would refuse to enter her or remain in her. At the same time, thanks to Christ and to his Church, those who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ and his Church but sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, try to do his will as it is known through the dictates of conscience can attain eternal salvation.”

The eRumor also borrows a subtext about religion vs. spiritualism and the idea of the church being “outdated” from comments made by Pope Francis’s niece, Cristina Bergoglio, in July of 2014, WPLG-Miami reports:

“There’s a new art exhibit in Miami in an unlikely place and by an unlikely artist. Pope Francis’ niece and artist Cristina Bergoglio has her works on display at the Conrad Hotel in Brickell.

Bergoglio said she is not religious, but spiritual and she doesn’t subscribe to any one religion.

‘I’m not afraid to say I see the church as outdated, and that’s why I believe life has put my uncle to renew this certain system of thought that was getting stagnated,’ said Bergoglio.”

The original author of the eRumor isn’t known, but its text blends previous statements that have proven controversial in an apparent attempt to start a dialogue about spiritualism, or to incite those who practice Catholicism.