A note of caution here, because the “quotes” being attributed to Pope Francis, aren’t actually quotes, they’re a paraphrase of what the author remembered from the conversation.
However, if the spirit of the paraphrase is correct, then the story is just as shocking as if the quotes were exactly accurate.
The Pope recently sat down with his longtime friend (and well-known atheist) Eugenio Scalfari for a friendly, private conversation (not an interview). However, Scalfari’s recollections of what was said in this tête-à-tête is sending shockwaves throughout the Roman Catholic community.
Here’s what the Pope reportedly said that has the world’s Catholics freaking out.
Scalfari says to the Pope, “Your Holiness, in our previous meeting you told me that our species will disappear in a certain moment and that God, still out of his creative force, will create new species. You have never spoken to me about the souls who died in sin and will go to hell to suffer it for eternity. You have however spoken to me of good souls, admitted to the contemplation of God. But what about bad souls? Where are they punished?”
Pope Francis says, “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. There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls.”
This short statement is shocking because it flies in the face of 2,000 years of church teaching, explicit statements from previous church leaders, explicit teaching from within the Bible itself, specific commentary from Jesus in the Bible, and one of the most important foundational teachings in Scripture.
Oftentimes, among the non-faith, unbelieving world, hell is depicted solely as a place of never-ending torture, which it is. However, what is missed is that Hell is such torture because it is eternal (forever) separation from God. It’s not the fire and brimstone that makes Hell so bad, it’s the fact that the souls there have been completely cut off from God. Saying that there is no Hell, and that non-believing souls simply disappear, completely discounts the need for Christ’s sacrifice (his Death and Resurrection).
This view of death that Scalfari attributes to the Pope is commonly known as Annihilationism. Annihilationism is the “belief that after the final judgment some human beings and all fallen angels (all of the damned) will be totally destroyed so as to not exist, or that their consciousness will be extinguished, rather than suffer everlasting torment in hell.” This perspective basically says that the soul is only eternal, if it is given eternal life… otherwise, once you die, you’re done.
In response to the firestorm that this conversation has created within the Catholic community, the Vatican released a statement that doesn’t actually deny that this is what the Pope said.
* In a statement released on Mar. 29, after Scalfari’s report garnered worldwide attention, the Vatican said:
“The Holy Father Francis recently received the founder of the newspaper La Repubblica in a private meeting on the occasion of Easter, without however giving him any interviews. What is reported by the author in today’s article [in La Repubblica] 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.“
Yea, that’s not a denial.
If the Pope didn’t really articulate this idea that hell is not a real place, then why wouldn’t they simply deny that he said it?
If the Pope does believe that hell is a real place where some souls spend eternity, then why wouldn’t the Vatican’s statement simply say, “The Pope says hell is a real place”?
How long can world Catholics continue to follow a man who obviously disdains so much of his own church’s teachings? Can the Catholic Church survive a leader who consistently contradicts church history, the Bible, and longstanding Catholic doctrine?