53. This first proclamation is also addressed to the immense sections of mankind who practice non-Christian religions. The Church respects and esteems these non Christian religions because they are the living expression of the soul of vast groups of people. They carry within them the echo of thousands of years of searching for God, a quest which is incomplete but often made with great sincerity and righteousness of heart. They possess an impressive patrimony of deeply religious texts. They have taught generations of people how to pray. They are all impregnated with innumerable "seeds of the Word" and can constitute a true "preparation for the Gospel," to quote a felicitous term used by the Second Vatican Council and borrowed from Eusebius of Caesarea.
Such a situation certainly raises complex and delicate questions that must be studied in the light of Christian Tradition and the Church's magisterium, in order to offer to the missionaries of today and of tomorrow new horizons in their contacts with non-Christian religions. We wish to point out, above all today, that neither respect and esteem for these religions nor the complexity of the questions raised is an invitation to the Church to withhold from these non-Christians the proclamation of Jesus Christ. On the contrary the Church holds that these multitudes have the right to know the riches of the mystery of Christ - riches in which we believe that the whole of humanity can find, in unsuspected fullness, everything that it is gropingly searching for concerning God, man and his destiny, life and death, and truth. Even in the face of natural religious expressions most worthy of esteem, the Church finds support in the fact that the religion of Jesus, which she proclaims through evangelization, objectively places man in relation with the plan of God, with His living presence and with His action; she thus causes an encounter with the mystery of divine paternity that bends over towards humanity. In other words, our religion effectively establishes with God an authentic and living relationship which the other religions do not succeed in doing, even though they have, as it were, their arms stretched out towards heaven.
This is why the Church keeps her missionary spirit alive, and even wishes to intensify it in the moment of history in which we are living. She feels responsible before entire peoples. She has no rest so long as she has not done her best to proclaim the Good News of Jesus the Savior. She is always preparing new generations of apostles. Let us state this fact with joy at a time when there are not lacking those who think and even say that ardor and the apostolic spirit are exhausted, and that the time of the missions is now past. The Synod has replied that the missionary proclamation never ceases and that the Church will always be striving for the fulfillment of this proclamation.
Pope Francis recently caused a firestorm or at least the headline the media went with caused one.Here I'll include an exact quote of the Holy Father regarding the possibility of atheists going to heaven.
"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 is not Catholic! He cannot do good.' Yes, he can... "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!" 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."Is Pope Francis contradicting Paul VI? Let's take a look at what the Catechism states re the matter. "Since it [atheism]rejects or denies the existence of God, atheism is a sin against the virtue of religion but the imputability of the offense can be significantly diminished in virtue of the intentions and the circumstances" (CCC#2125).
What the Church and Pope Francis are basically saying is that all things are possible with God.
I will state it this way;if we are Catholic then we are given more and from us more will be expected.
Pope Francis is not saying do not believe in God.Of course not. He is not saying if you are atheist then remain atheist. He is saying that in the end it will be God who judges.There is no contraction between Pope Francis and Paul VI.
What we don't do is fall into the trap of syncretism which claims that all religions are equal. The Church has NEVER taught this.What she does teach is there is some good,some truth that can be found in other religions. Paul VI describes the search for truth in other religions as "arms outstretched for heaven." Paul the VI states what the Church has always taught. There are truths in other religions and their 'religious expression is worthy of esteem' but it is the religion of JESUS that the Church proclaims that is a total encounter with God.
Even in the face of natural religious expressions most worthy of esteem, the Church finds support in the fact that the religion of Jesus, which she proclaims through evangelization, objectively places man in relation with the plan of God, with His living presence and with His action; she thus causes an encounter with the mystery of divine paternity that bends over towards humanity.So you can be an atheist and live a good moral life that is in keeping with the teachings of Jesus even if you have not come to know Jesus [yet] while at the same time you could be Christian and fail to live the moral teachings of Jesus.Pope Francis is inviting the atheist to search for Jesus. Paul VI is speaking to religions that have their 'arms stretched towards heaven.' NOWHERE does the Church teach,nor does Pope Franics mean, you should BE an atheist or part of another religion outside the Church.It is up to us to evangelize.Man is called to seek THE TRUTH.