Pope Francis said nothing new.
This has been in the Catechism for I don't know how long. Here's the deal - a snippet of a quote from his 2,500-word letter has been grabbed and taken out of context. Why? Why would reporters do this? Maybe because they are looking for the Catholic Church to change.
The media. The media who hates Christianity and everything that it stands for. The media who hates anyone who is pro-life or who stands for traditional marriage. This is who you trust for your Catholic theology? The media grabs on to what they think drives their agenda, and their agenda isn't the teachings of the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church stands for truth and won't change according to the whims of the world. And the media and the world HATES this. So they hold on to every snippet of a quote that may point to the fall of the Catholic Church as we know it. Because this would mean the rise of their agendas.
This stuff drives me bonkers. Then again, maybe I'm underestimating Pope Francis and his brilliant plan to use the media.
Leila Miller at the Little Catholic Bubble has a great series called "Little Teachings", and she addresses the question, "Can non-Catholics be saved?" As she emphatically states,
There is no salvation except through Christ Jesus, and it is simply impossible for anyone to get to Heaven without Him.And this is not a contradiction to what Pope Francis wrote in his recent letter.
Let's think of this in another way. I'll use an example. Amy reads in the Bible that love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Amy is a brand new Christian, and since she hasn't been in church long or read the Bible very much yet she interprets this verse to mean it's fine to sin all she wants. Jesus' love will cover it. But Amy is wrong. She hasn't read that verse with the context of the entire Bible, so she in mis-interpreting it.
The same is true of what many non-Catholics are doing with Pope Francis' recent statements. The statements are snatched out and interpreted without an understanding of Catholic theology. The pope is not saying that you can get to heaven without Jesus. I know that's what it sounds like, but that's not what he's saying at all.
But you shouldn't just take my word on the matter. Search it for yourself. Catholicism is the oldest Christian faith, the biggest Christian faith, and the only Christian church who claims to have been started by Jesus himself. Isn't it worth further investigation?
And for God's sake, don't get your Catholic teaching from the unbelieving world or the general media.
Leila's post that talks about the salvation of non-Catholics and non-believers isn't a full teaching on the matter, but it is a really, really, really good way for a quick start to understanding this topic (as are her other little teachings). Please read Leila's teaching (from a year and a half ago), and read what the Pope really said in his letter to fully understand what was said. And here's a good piece from the National Catholic Register that also goes into what Pope Francis wrote. That is - if you really want to understand what Pope Francis was saying in his letter. Or you could just go on being ill-informed and using snippets of quotes from the Pope to use against him and the Catholic Church. Either way, it's your choice.
Jesus gave us the Catholic Church to help guide us while we're here on Earth. He built his Church and promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. Jesus always keeps his word. He's pretty awesome that way.