Atheists can go to Heaven. This is the message given by Pope Francis in a homily during Mass on May 22, 2015:
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! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. 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.
I beg to differ. Either Pope Francis is deluding himself or he is purposely misleading people.
While it is true that Jesus Christ has redeemed all of mankind, it does not mean that atheists can go to Heaven. The fact is that only people who of their own free will want to be redeemed and choose to be redeemed are able to do so.
Jesus Christ has redeemed all people, but only those who want to be redeemed will partake of the blessings of the act of Salvation. But anyone who wants to will indeed become blessed, because his will entitles Me to snatch the soul from My adversary, because I have paid the purchase price for it with My blood. (The Word of God, Proclamation 7369)
But even My love does not determine your will. For you have chosen this wretched state of your own free will, and of your own free will you shall also make an effort to be saved from it again. And for this reason the salvation through Jesus Christ requires your free will, otherwise the whole world would have been redeemed already, otherwise no one would be in bondage and weakness any longer, because the act of Salvation has been accomplished for all humankind. (The Word of God, Proclamation 6938)
As the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis should know better. Jesus Christ is the key to Salvation.
Jesus told him: I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
We cannot bypass Jesus Christ. Doing good is just a part of the equation. In order to be redeemed, we must call on Jesus Christ, we must acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and we must of our own free will choose Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour.
You can release yourselves from the lord who still has control over you during your earthly life only by calling upon another Lord for protection. And I Am waiting for this call, for then I will also be entitled to snatch you away from him, because I have bought this right as the man Jesus by My sacrificial death. (The Word of God, Proclamation 7038)
I only require the will of the human being; I only require the acknowledgement of Jesus as the Son of God and Redeemer of the world, in Whom I Myself accomplished the act of Salvation for people, in order to then be able to grant them the blessings of the act of Salvation which consists in the fact that the will of the human being finds strength, that he can receive the strength to achieve the transformation back into love. (The Word of God, Proclamation 7369)
Atheists cannot go to Heaven even if they do good all their lives. For their souls to be able to go to Heaven, they must first acknowledge Jesus Christ and accept Him as their Lord and Saviour, if not on Earth, then in the kingdom of the beyond.