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.

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

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

"The gospel teaches us that those who live in accordance with theBeatitudes--the poor in spirit, the pure of heart, those who bearlovingly the sufferings of life--will enter God's kingdom," John Paulsaid.

"All who seek God with a sincere heart, including those who do notknow Christ and his church, contribute under the influence of grace tothe building of this kingdom," he said.

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, in an official response to "Dominus Iesus," the(Anglican) Church of Ireland said that, though it might be "strictlycorrect" to say the new statement changes nothing in the Roman CatholicChurch's official stance, it does nevertheless raise the question of"the adequacy of the use of doctrinal statements as effective tools forecumenical relations."

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