The Vatican communications department has been working overtime the past few weeks. First, its chief communications secretary, Dario Vigano, resigned under pressure after the Vatican admitted to doctoring a photo of a letter from Pope Benedict XVI to bolster Francis’s conservative credentials. Now, they’re scrambling to contextualize a remark attributed to Pope Francis by an Italian journalist at the newspaper La Repubblica that hell does not exist.
…Speaking to the newspaper’s founder, journalist and atheist Eugenio Scalfari, Francis was quoted as saying of those who die in a state of mortal sin: “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.”
If the Pope indeed said those words, the consequences would be catastrophic for the Catholic Church, which — according to its own catechism — “affirms the teaching of hell and its eternity,” including “eternal fire,” although it stresses that the “The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God.”