Vatican dismisses report that Pope denied hell

What happened?

The Vatican challenged the reliability of a journalist’s memory after a report that the Pope had denied the existence of hell. Eugenio Scalfari, a friend of the Pope, wrote in La Repubblica that Francis had told him: “Those who do not repent … disappear. There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls.”

The Vatican press office said that Scalfari’s quotation was only a “reconstruction” of their exchange and therefore “could not be considered a faithful transcription”.

What the media said

“Even the Pope doesn’t believe in hell so why should we?” was the headline in the Independent’s letters section. Another headline, at Psychology Today, read: “Smile, There Is No Hell (Even the Pope Says So)”.

The Vatican statement, though not a complete denial, cast doubt on Scalfari’s account. “This is not the first time Scalfari – an avowed atheist – has published a controversial statement attributed to Pope Francis, only for the Vatican to walk it back,” noted Tara Isabella Burton at Vox. That the Pope still speaks freely to Scalfari “says as much about Francis’s unorthodox approach to the media as it does about Francis’s theology”. But “Francis’s consistent reliance on Scalfari as a potential mouthpiece for heterodox thought renders each denial a little less plausible”.

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