People who "know" the church teaching that being a Roman Catholic is "necessary for salvation ... cannot be saved" if they "refuse to enter [the church] or remain in her," said the Rev. Thomas Rosica, who runs Canada's Catholic Salt + Light Television and served in the Vatican press office during the Benedict XVI-Francis transition.
But people "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," said Rosica's "explanatory note."
"No person is excluded from salvation simply because of so-called original sin; one can only lose their salvation through serious personal sin of their own account," he added.
Rosica, a priest of the Congregation of St. Basil order, also made clear from where the church teachings on salvation come.
"All salvation comes from Christ, the head, through the church, which is his body," Rosica said in his note, published by Zenit, an "independent" Vatican-supported news agency that describes itself as "The world seen from Rome."
Francis made headlines when he said in a May 22 homily: "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?'" Francis said as if asking himself. "Even the atheists. Everyone!" Francis said in answering his Socratic-style question.
"And this blood makes us children of God of the first class!" Francis said. "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," Francis said.
"'But I don't believe, Father. I am an atheist!'" Francis said, again speaking as if he were someone else.
"But do good -- we will meet one another there," Francis said in response.