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Pope's letter published in Italian newspaper

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September 11, 2013 11:08 AM EST | AP

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ROME — Pope Francis has responded to the questions of a non-believer journalist, in a letter published on the front page of Rome-based daily La Repubblica.

The pope answered a pair of letters from the daily's founder and long-time editor Eugenio Scalfari, who posed a series of theological questions to the pontiff in the paper over the summer.

To the 89-year-old Scalfari's question of whether someone without faith who commits a sin would be forgiven by the Christian God, Francis responded: "God forgives those who follow their conscience."

In his letter, printed across three pages, Francis said "it is time for an open dialogue on faith without any preconceived notions."

The pope's letter was published under the byline `'Francesco," the Italian version of his name.