• John Thavis

‘The Lord has redeemed all of us … even the atheists’

One of the hallmarks of Pope Francis’ still-young pontificate is its emphasis on non-exclusivity. He seems convinced that the church, in what it says and does to promote the Gospel, must broaden its appeal and expand its dialogue with others.

At this morning’s morning Mass in the Vatican guest house, the pope elaborated on that theme, saying that “doing good” is a principle that provides a meeting ground between Christians and non-Christians – even atheists.

“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!” the pope said.

His words should challenge all Catholics, but especially those who want to use identity politics to rule out cooperation and communication with those who do not share the church’s beliefs.

Pope Francis began his reflection with the Gospel account of Christ’s disciples trying to stop a man from outside their group from doing good. Vatican Radio reports on what the pope went on to say:

“They complain … ‘If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.’ And Jesus corrects them: ‘Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good.’”

The disciples, Pope Francis explained, “were a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea of possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.”

“This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon. The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation.”

“The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this person is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him.”

“Instead, this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God. That we can kill in the name of God. And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.”

“The Lord has created us in His image and likeness, and has given us this commandment in the depths of our heart: do good and do not do evil”:

“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.”

“Doing good” the pope said, is not a matter of faith. “It is a duty, it is an identity card that our Father has given to all of us, because He has made us in His image and likeness. And He does good, always.”

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