By James Ojo
Pope Francis recently became a subject of heated controversies over his open endorsement of same-sex civil unions — which is condemned by the Catholic church and conservative Christians.
The development has since made many to revisit some of his similar controversial claims in the past.
One of such is that atheists do not need to believe in God to make heaven — an afterlife home for Christians, according to the Bible.
The religious leader’s stance had come in an open letter to Eugenio Scalfari, an atheist and founder of Daily La Repubblica, an Italian newspaper.
In the letter, published by the newspaper in September 2013, the pontiff had while addressing strings of questions, said God would forgive non-believers as long as they obey their conscience.
“You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith,” he was quoted to have said.
“I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.
“Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.”
The pope had further reinforced similar ideology when he visited a parish in Rome during which he told Emanuele, a young boy, that his late father, an atheist, was “with God” on the grounds that he was a “good man”.
“God has the heart of a father, your father was a good man, he is in heaven with Him, be sure. God has a father’s heart and, would God ever abandon a non-believing father who baptize his children?” the religious leader was quoted as telling the boy in 2018.
In the same vein, the pope had in an article published in La Repubblica also reportedly claimed that “hell does not exist” — a report that would later be dismissed by the Vatican.
“There is no hell where the souls of sinners suffer in eternity,” the newspaper had quoted the pope as saying.
Since his election as pope in March 2013, Francis has attracted criticisms over his utterances, some of which allegedly backed ideologies contrary to conservative Christianity.