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Dear catholic.com visitors: This website from Catholic Answers, with all its many resources, is the world's largest source of explanations for Catholic beliefs and practices. A fully independent, lay-run, 501(c)(3) ministry that receives no funding from the institutional Church, we rely entirely on the generosity of everyday people like you to keep this website going with trustworthy , fresh, and relevant content. If everyone visiting this month gave just $1, catholic.com would be fully funded for an entire year. Do you find catholic.com helpful? Please make a gift today. Thank you. Wishing you a blessed Lenten season.

If there is no salvation outside the Church, then what does Christ’s death do for those who die without entering the Church?

Question:

If there is no salvation outside the Church, then what relationship does Christ’s sacrifice on the cross have with those who sincerely believe in a false religion and die having never entered the Church?

Answer:

Remember that Jesus said from the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). What did his sacrifice on the cross have to do with those who mocked him, spit at him, and crucified him? In other words, what did it have to do with those for whom he was asking forgiveness from God the Father? The answer is: everything. For some, it was through ignorance that they crucified him, and invincible ignorance can diminish one’s culpability for evil done—even the crucifixion of our Savior. They still could be saved, or Jesus’ plea for their forgiveness to the Father would make no sense. Whoever enters heaven will do so only because of Christ and his sacrificial work on the cross. Some people may enter heaven having never heard of Christ, but it will be because of him that they enter.

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