News outlets and social media are abuzz with reports that Pope Francis denied the reality of Hell. Is there an ounce of truth to any of these statements? Of course not, Hell is most definitely real and Pope Francis didn’t say anything on the contrary.
The allegations came from a recent meeting with Pope Francis and 93-year-old Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari. Scalfari was not given an audience with the supreme pontiff for an interview, but instead was “a private meeting for the occasion of Easter.” Scalfari wrote a long story about their meeting, and included a question and answer section at the end.
According to Scalfari’s article in Thursday’s edition of La Repubblica, a popular Italian daily general interest newspaper, he asked Pope Francis where “bad souls” go and where they are punished. Scalfari quoted Pope Francis as responding verbatim:
“They are not punished. Those who repent obtain God’s forgiveness and take their place among the ranks of those who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot be forgiven disappear. A Hell doesn’t exist, the disappearance of sinning souls exists.”
However, in the communique issued by the Holy See on Thursday, they say Scalfari’s article was a fabrication – “the fruit of his reconstruction,” and not a “faithful transcription of the Holy Father’s words.”
The meeting was Scalfari’s fifth with the Holy Father, and not the first time he misrepresented his words either. Following controversy over quotes the journalist had attributed to Pope Francis in November of 2013, he admitted that at least some of the words he had published “were not shared by the Pope himself.” Following the controversy, he met with journalists of the Foreign Press Assocation in Rome and “said some of the Pope’s words I reported, were not shared by Pope Francis.”
What is the official teaching by the Church on Hell? Read the Catechism below:
“The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire.’ The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church 1035