Pope Francis came under fire Thursday after allegedly claiming Hell does not exist, according to an Italian newspaper.
Eugenio Scalfari, co-founder of La Repubblica, published his latest conversation with Pope Francis in the paper.
In the article, Scalfari said he asked Pope Francis if “bad souls” get punished after they die.
“They are not punished, those who repent get God’s forgiveness and go among the ranks of the 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,” Scalfari quotes Pope Francis as saying.
These comments sparked controversy in the Christian world, with a number of people accusing the Pope of straying from doctrine during Passion Week.
The Vatican press office claims the Pope’s statements are not direct quotes, but a reconstruction by the author.
“What is reported by the author in today’s article is the result of his reconstruction, in which the textual 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.
Eugenio Scalfari, a devout atheist, has admitted in the past that he doesn’t record or take notes during interviews.
Despite the swarming controversy over Francis’ words, the Catholic Catechism supports the existence of hell.
Paragraph 1035 of the Catechism states: “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 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.”
Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, says hell is the reason why Christians celebrate Resurrection Sunday.
“No pope, priest, pastor or person can make hell go away by denying its reality. Hell is a real and unavoidable fact we must all face. In fact, hell is the reason why 2,000 years ago on a Friday like today Jesus was crucified. Jesus died the death we all deserved and paid the eternal punishment of hell we all owed,” he said. “We don’t deny hell: hell is real, but Jesus is victorious.”