In remarks during mass on Wednesday, Pope Francis surprised many by saying that even atheists can be as good as Catholics if they "do good."
The Pope recounted a passage from the Gospel of Mark, and shared the story of a priest who told a skeptical Catholic that all people can be redeemed, even atheists, as long as they "do good and do not do evil."
"Father, the atheists?," the skeptical Catholic responded. "Even the atheists. Everyone!" the Pope quoted the priest as saying, adding that "we must meet one another doing good."
Francis said the disciples "were a little intolerant." They complained, "if he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good." The Pope explained that Jesus corrected them, "Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good."
The Pope has strengthened his message of uniting not just non-Catholic believers of other faiths, but nonbelievers as well, in stark contrast to his predecessors. "Just do good" he said, "and we'll find a meeting point."
Catholic Online went so far as to say that "atheists can go do good and go to Heaven too," concluding that atheists who either "do not yet know God" or choose not to believe, "progress toward that knowledge of God by doing good."