Pope Francis' admission that atheists are capable of doing good has been followed by a Vatican statement clarifying that the church still believes atheists are going to hell. In a corrective statement that suggests people misunderstood the pontiff's remarks, a Vatican spokesman stresses that the church believes all salvation "comes from Christ, the Head, through the Church which is his body," meaning those with awareness of the Catholic Church who "refuse to enter her or remain in her ... cannot be saved," Salon reports.
The spokesman also makes it clear that church doctrine considers salvation off-limits to members of other religions and other branches of Christianity, although people who have never been exposed to Christianity might still have a shot. "Catholics do not adopt the attitude of religious relativism which regards all religions as on the whole equally justifiable," he writes. The pope's original comments, in which he said the "Lord has redeemed all of us," were welcomed by surprised atheist groups, the Christian Post reports. (Read more Christianity stories.)