Pope: Unbelievers Saved if They Live a Just Life

John Paul's statement is seen as an attempt to soften the impact of the recent 'Dominus Iesus' declaration.

BY: Peggy Polk
and Robert Nowell

 

VATICAN CITY, Dec. 6 (RNS)--Tempering a controversial Vatican declaration on salvation, Pope John Paul II said Wednesday that all who live a just life will be saved even if they do not believe in Jesus Christ and the Roman Catholic Church.

The pontiff, addressing some 30,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square for his weekly general audience, strongly reasserted the liberal interpretation of the Bible's teaching on salvation that emerged from the Second Vatican Council.

"The gospel teaches us that those who live in accordance with the Beatitudes--the poor in spirit, the pure of heart, those who bear lovingly the sufferings of life--will enter God's kingdom," John Paul said.

"All who seek God with a sincere heart, including those who do not know Christ and his church, contribute under the influence of grace to the building of this kingdom," he said.

The pope appeared to take a far more inclusive approach to salvation than the declaration "Dominus Iesus" issued Sept. 5 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which serves as the Vatican's guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy.

"Dominus Ieusus" caused dismay among non-Catholics involved in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue by asserting that their rituals, "insofar as they depend on superstitions or other errors, constitute an obstacle to salvation."

"If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking, they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the church, have the fullness of the means of salvation," the document said.

While giving his full support to the declaration, John Paul has been at pains since it was issued to reiterate his commitment to dialogue and his respect for members of other religions.

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