Pope John Paul II commented to the youth at the Greek Melkite Cathedral of Damascus, “You cannot be a Christian if you reject the Church founded on Jesus Christ.” A Protestant author uses this, along with paragraph 846 in the Catechism, as evidence that the Church teaches that only Catholics can go to heaven. Did the pope say non-Catholics cannot be saved?
Pope John Paul II’s remark is consistent with the constant teaching of the Catholic Church. Notice that he uses the word “reject” which, in context, means making a conscious decision against the Church that one knows to be founded by Jesus Christ.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church text confirms this: “They could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it” (CCC 846, emphasis added).