Is the pope a universalist?

Probably not, but he said this in a homily today:

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!

As others have pointed out, Francis could simply be referring here to what theologians call “universal (or unlimited) atonement.” That’s the view that Jesus died for everyone, rather than a limited sub-set of people (as taught by some Calvinists and others). By itself, universal atonement doesn’t necessarily imply universal salvation. It could be, as most believers in universal atonement have taught, that Christ’s passion makes salvation universally available, but that we have to do something to appropriate it, as it were.

Still, though this is a sermon and not a theological treatise, the pope’s language here sounds awfully categorical. And his two predecessors were both fans of Hans Urs Von Balthasar, who argued that we should at least hope that everyone will be saved.

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