“There is no hell where the souls of sinners suffer in eternity”, Pope Francis was quoted as saying in a Thursday interview with Italian daily La Repubblica.
The Pope was interviewed by 93-year-old veteran Italian journalist and atheist, Eugenio Scalfari, who regularly muses about faith and religion, and enjoys access to the leader of the Catholic Church.
La Repubblica founder Eugenio Scalfari in the article, acknowledged the pontiff’s previous remarks about how “good souls” who sought repentance from God would receive it, but further asked “What about the bad souls?” 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.
“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,” Pope Francis said, as translated by Catholic blog Rorate Caeli.
“There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls,” he added.
However shortly after the article was published, the Vatican issued a statement that claimed the article was “not a faithful transcript” , and that the meeting between Pope Francis and Scalfari was a private meeting and not a formal interview.
Citing Pope Paul VI, the Catechism of the Catholic Church said that Catholic teaching;
“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.
“What is reported by the author in today’s article is the result of his reconstruction, in which the literal words pronounced by the Pope are not quoted. No quotation of the aforementioned article must therefore be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father,” the Vatican said in a statement translated by the Catholic News Agency.