Shared recently on Facebook was an image of Pope Francis and the following quote, attributed to him:-
Now there is some very slippery language here. In particular, it is not at all clear what the Pope means by ‘a good person’. Yes, there are some atheists who are kinder, gentler, and more caring than some religious people (shame on us!). And if that is all the Pope is saying, then it’s true.
But the Pope knows as well as I do that the challenge of the gospel is not to make ourselves ‘good enough for God’, but the ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ’. ‘Goodness’ must and will follow.
But a more basic question is this: Did the Pope ever say this? Although it’s impossible to prove that he didn’t (not everything that even a Pope says gets reliably recorded). But to my knowledge no source has ever been given for the quote (and it’s been floating around on social media since December 2014). Lesson: don’t believe everything you read on social media.
What we can say is that the Pope has demonstrated an unusual (I would say, worrying) level of inclusiveness. In a homily in May 2014, he said:-
More slippery language, I think. Maybe it’s a translation thing. Maybe he’s simply saying that Christians can make common cause with unbelievers on a range of moral and social issues. I have no problem at all with that.
But let Fr. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman who helps to clarify the Pope’s statements for the English-speaking audience, explain what he means:-
Ah, so the Pope was talking about Karl Rahner’s ‘anonymous Christian’. Well, I’m not sure that he was. But let it rest.
Perhaps the key lesson to be learned is this: ‘Don’t believe anything you read on social media unless you can verify it.’
But some people will believe anything, if it suits them to do so.
See this article.