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Everybody Calm Down, The Vatican Says The Pope Didn't Say Hell Doesn't Exist

Also, the teachings of the Catholic Church are pretty clear about the belief in hell.

Posted on March 30, 2018, at 4:32 p.m. ET

Marco Bertorello / AFP / Getty Images

The Vatican on Friday refuted a recent Italian newspaper story in which Pope Francis allegedly said hell does not exist.

Liberal-leaning Italian newspaper La Repubblica published an "interview" between the paper's founder, Eugenio Scalfari, 93, and the pope on Thursday in which the leader of the Catholic Church is quoted as saying that hell "does not exist."

Here's a translation of the key exchange in the story:

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?

POPE FRANCIS: They are not punished, those who repent obtain the forgiveness of God and go among the ranks of the souls who contemplate Him. But those who do not repent, and therefore cannot be forgiven, disappear. Hell does not exist – what exists is the disappearance of sinful souls.

As Vatican reporters and Catholic commentators have pointed out on Twitter, Scalfari has admitted in the past that he does not record or take notes during the conversations that he later publishes as interviews.

Scalfari apparently does not record or take notes; he quotes the pope from his nonagenarian's memory. In almost every interview, one or more of those quotes has featured the pope saying something that would be pretty wild for a pope to say.

This is not the first time Eugenio Scalfari has reported that Pope Francis denied the existence of hell, but Scalfari himself has admitted that his publications in these cases are his own wording of what he thinks the Pope was trying to say, not the Pope's literal words. https://t.co/41WLYxRc1Y

The Holy See press office referenced this in its statement about the story on Friday, calling the article "the fruit of [Scalfari's] reconstruction" and that "no quotations ... should be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father."

Francis has also talked specifically about the existence of an actual hell (on the record) in the past.

Filippo Monteforte / AFP / Getty Images

For example, in a 2014 vigil for victims of Mafia violence, the pope begged members of the Mafia to repent or face eternal damnation.

"The power, the money you have now from so many dirty deals, from so many Mafia crimes, blood-stained money, blood-stained power — you will not be able to take that with you to the other life," he said. "There is still time not to end up in hell, which awaits you if you continue on this road."

Also, last year during a visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, Francis said a godless life leads to hell.

"Our Lady foretold, and warned us about, a way of life that is godless and indeed profanes God in his creatures,” he said. “Such a life — frequently proposed and imposed — risks leading to hell.”

And, just for the record, the teachings of the Catholic Church are pretty clear about the belief in hell.

Marco Bertorello / AFP / Getty Images

"The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity," the Catechism of the Catholic Church states. "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."

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