Vatican Clarifies Pope's Words on Hell

Statement faults journalist for inaccurately quoting Francis as denying its existence
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 31, 2018 9:30 AM CDT
Vatican Clarifies Pope's Words on Hell
Pope Francis presides over the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) torchlight procession on Good Friday in front of Rome's Colosseum, Friday, March 30, 2018.   (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Pope Francis has found himself in a controversy about the existence of hell, on Easter Week no less. The brouhaha started when atheist and Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari wrote an article in the newspaper La Repubblica claiming that Francis told him hell doesn't exist, reports the Guardian. By Scalfari's account, the journalist asked the pope where "bad souls go," and Francis responded thusly: “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.”

That set off a flurry of headlines and social media posts charging that Francis had upended church doctrine by denying the existence of hell, notes NPR. Not so fast, says the Vatican. In a statement, it says Scalfari misquoted the pope in what was a "private meeting" and not an official interview. The resulting article "is the fruit of his reconstruction, in which the precise words uttered by the Pope are not cited," says the statement. "No quotations in the aforementioned article, then, should be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father." The Catholic News Service, meanwhile, reports that the 93-year-old Scalfari prides himself on not taking notes during his interviews, and it runs through previous statements from Francis in line with the church's official stance on the subject. (More Pope Francis stories.)

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