Vatican: Pope Francis did not say hell does not exist

Saul Bowman
April 1, 2018

An article that was published on La Repubblica, an Italian newspaper on Thursday claimed that the Pontiff told Eugenio Scalfari, 93, a well-known journalist, that "there is no hell".

Almost every time a Francis interview has appeared on Repubblica's front page, the Vatican press office has insisted the pope's words weren't necessarily accurate, without denying them outright. But those who do not repent, and therefore can not be forgiven, disappear.

The article, which ran on March 29, reported that Francis said "hell does not exist".

Scalfari, an atheist, does not usually use tape recorders during interviews, The USA Today report said.

The Vatican suggested the quotes in the report were questionable - but seem to have stopped short of an outright dismissal.

Seemingly going against centuries of core Christian belief, Pope Francis said the souls of sinners simply vanished after death and were not subject to an eternity of punishment.

"No quotes of the aforementioned article should therefore be considered as a faithful transcription of the Holy Father's words", the statement said. "These are not interviews, these are meetings, I don't take notes".

During his annual Good Friday prayer address to the faithful, Catholic Pope Francis stated that he is "ashamed" of our planet, as it is "fractured by divisions and wars".

In any event, until Francis himself clears this all up, the furor over Hell will add to the impression - particularly among Catholic conservatives, who are perpetually nervous about this Pope after identifying with maximum papal authority during the reigns of his conservative predecessors - that no traditional doctrine is entirely safe in his hands.

"A Hell doesn't exist, the disappearance of sinning souls exists".

Speaking at St Peter's Square in 2017, the Pope said that judgment was not to be feared because "at the end of our history there is the merciful Jesus". Hell, by contrast, was "the ultimate effect of sin itself". The resulting article "is the fruit of his reconstruction, in which the precise words uttered by the Pope are not cited", says the statement.

The comments come at the height of Holy Week, while Pope Francis presided over solemn Good Friday services amid heightened security at Rome's Colosseum for the Via Crucis procession.

The Vatican disputed that Francis said anything of the sort.

The Holy Father Francis recently received the founder of the newspaper La Repubblica in a private meeting on the occasion of Easter, without however giving him any interviews.

To many people in Italy, Scalfari personifies an impressionistic style of Italian journalism, prevalent in its coverage of the Vatican, politics and much else, in which the gist is more important than the verbatim, and the spirit greater than the letter.

Turning to Europe, Scalfari recounts Francis saying "Europe is a continent which, for centuries, has fought wars, revolutions, rivalries and hatred, even in the Church", but at the same time, it's where "religiosity reached its maximum heights".

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