My Catholic friends who fear that the current pope is remaking the Catholic Church into his image have been provided another reason to fear. In an interview, Pope Francis has declared that there is no hell.
Pope Francis made the claim in an interview conducted by his atheist friend Eugenio Scalfari. The interview was then published by La Repubblica. The website Rorate Caeli has provided a translation of the relevant part of the interview.
[Scalfari:] 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?[Francis:] “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.”
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. (1035)
Contradicting the Church that he leads, Pope Francis apparently believes in what’s called annihilationism. This belief denies that all souls are immortal. Only those in a right relationship with God earn immorality. For everyone else, upon their death, they simply cease to exist. There is no eternal punishment for those who do not repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus. What’s more, annihilationists extend this claim to fallen angels, including Satan.
While not considered an outright heresy like universalism (the belief that all souls will be reconciled to God), annihilationism is outside of what’s generally considered Christian orthodoxy. The vast majority of Christians since the early Church have affirmed the doctrine of hell and the belief that God will eternally punish those who die in their rebellion against Him. Jesus taught this doctrine throughout his ministry here on this earth.
Citing just one passage out of many, in Matthew 10:28 Jesus warned, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”
In that one verse, Jesus confirms the existence of hell and the immortality of all souls.
With his claim that there is no hell, Pope Francis is providing further proof that he is intent on reshaping the Roman Catholic Church. It will be interesting to see what the Catholic Church looks like once Pope Francis is finished.
Update 6:07 p.m. Eastern: The Vatican on Thursday denied reports that Pope Francis denied the existence of hell, saying that the conversation reported in the article should have been construed as an interview.
“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,” it said.
“No quotation of the aforementioned article must therefore be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father.”