During the reported conversation with a 93-year-old atheist philosopher, Eugenio Scalfari, the 266th and current pope of the Catholic church was reported to have said that hell does not exist, adding that the disappearance of the souls of sinners is what exists, The Times reported.
Mr Scalfari is the founder and former editor of La Repubblica, reportedly the Pope's favourite newspaper.
"No quotes of the aforementioned article should therefore be considered as a faithful transcription of the Holy Father's words", the statement said. In 2014, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, past papal spokesman, told CNA that "if there are no words published by the Holy See press office and not officially confirmed, the writer takes full responsibility for what he has written". What is interesting is what is not said.
"They are perfectly right", said Scalfari in an interview Friday night, as the pope prepared for a ceremonial leading of the stations of the cross on Good Friday.
The informal interview between the pope and Scalfari carried the headline: "The Pope: 'It is an honor to be called a revolutionary'".
At another point, Scalfari says he asked Francis if the real moment of creation wasn't that depicted by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but when Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise, thus setting the stage for life in a fallen world. You have however spoken to me of good souls, admitted to the contemplation of God.
Where do bad souls go to get punished? He conceded that it is therefore possible that "some of the Pope's words I reported, were not shared by Pope Francis".
"They are not punished".
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The Papacy has denied a widely credited statement to Pope Francis that hell does not exist.
According to Scalfari's report, the "colloquy" Pope Francis entertained with him ran the gamut: from the things like cosmogenesis - the origin and fate of the created order - to the social, political, and cultural complex and worldview we catch under the rubric of "Modernity", to the present and future of Europe.
Scalfari's version of the conversation isn't quite how the Vatican remembers it, however.
Scalfari has previously been accused of contorting the Pope's words in previous meetings, because of his unconventional style of not taking notes.
"Look, Italian journalism has many strengths, but a passion for factual accuracy is not among them". "I don't think, in any fundamental way, he misrepresented the pope's thought".
Maybe that's what Francis had in mind, though Scalfari's account suggests something significantly less traditional: Christian mortalism, the belief that souls bereft of salvation are either extinguished at death, or do not participate in the general Resurrection at the end of time.
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