‘There is no hell’: Italian publisher claims Pope Francis denied existence of underworld

‘There is no hell’: Italian publisher claims Pope Francis denied existence of underworld
The pope's most famous atheist friend, Eugenio Scalfari, has once again claimed that Pope Francis denied the existence of hell while also alleging that the pontiff doesn’t believe human souls are eternal.

"Your Holiness, in our previous meeting you told me that our species will disappear in a certain moment and that God, still out of his creative force, will create new species. You have never spoken to me about the souls who died in sin and will go to hell to suffer it for eternity. You have however spoken to me of good souls, admitted to the contemplation of God. But what about bad souls? Where are they punished?" Scalfari reportedly asked during the fifth meeting between the pair, as cited by CNS News.

Scalfari, 93, was the founder of the Italian daily La Repubblica, where the text of the alleged meeting was first published on Thursday.

"They are not punished, those who repent obtain the forgiveness of God and enter the rank of souls who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot therefore be forgiven disappear. There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls," Pope Francis allegedly replied.

Both of these claims run contrary to the central tenets of Catholicism: that the soul is eternal and that hell exists to punish the wicked for denying the word of God. "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 Catechism of the Catholic Church states. “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.”

Scalfari’s version of the conversation isn’t quite how the Vatican remembers it, however. The church says that while the two met, no interview took place.

"What is reported by the author in today’s article [in La Repubblica] is the result of his reconstruction, in which the textual words pronounced by the Pope are not quoted,” a statement from the Vatican said. “No quotation of the aforementioned article must therefore be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father.”

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Scalfari previously claimed that Pope Francis denied the existence of hell in 2015. There was a similar controversy following a November 2013 meeting between the pair. “If there are no words published by the Holy See press office and not officially confirmed, the writer takes full responsibility for what he has written,” Federico Lombardi, a former papal spokesperson, said in 2014 as cited by CruxNow.

In addition, Francis has publicly referred to the existence of hell while calling on mafiosos to abandon their lives of crime. “While there is still time, so that you do not end up in hell. That is what awaits you if you continue on this path,” the pope said, as cited by The Catholic News Agency.

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