"God forgives those who obey their conscience," Pope Francis wrote in an unprecedented letter published in the left wing Italian daily, La Repubblica, on Wednesday, Sept. 11.
The leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics was responding to editorials written in July and August by Eugenio Scalfari, an agnostic and the La Repubblica's founder, in which he was asked whether "the Christian God forgives those who do not believe and do not seek faith".
In the letter, Pope Francis explains that sin is not a lack of faith in God, but rather, failure to obey one’s conscience. The 76-year-old pontiff went on to say atheists could make moral decisions just like religious people.
In his latest attempt to reach out to non-believers, Francis expressed the belief that it was important for Christians to engage in "a sincere and rigorous dialogue" with atheists,
Last May, Pope Francis made headlines after claiming the “Blood of Christ” promised redemption for everyone engaged in good works, including atheists. However, after Pope Francis told the world even atheists can go to heaven, the Vatican was quick to issue a correction, informing the world that atheists were still going to hell.