In what may come as a surprise to the more than a billion Catholics around the world, the pope reportedly said there isn't a hell.
The quote was printed in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, which reported Pope Francis as saying: "... Those who do not repent, and so cannot be forgiven, disappear. There is no hell; there is the disappearance of sinful souls."
The comments were allegedly made during an interview with the paper's founder, 93-year-old Eugenio Scalfari, who admits he doesn't record or even take notes during his interviews with the pontiff, but reconstructs the conversation from memory.
The Vatican press office tried to walk back the comments, explaining it was a private meeting – not an interview – between Scalfari and the pontiff. "... Therefore no quotation in the said article must be considered as a faithful transcription" of the pope's words, states a Zenit report.
Phil Lawler, founder and editor of Catholic World News, however, says it's likely the quote is accurate. "[Scalfari] has once before in 2015 quoted the pope to roughly the same effect – questioning the existence of hell," he tells OneNewsNow.
And according to Lawler, it's the fifth such interview of the pope by Scalfari that has contained shocking "quotations" and, thus, produced sensational headlines.
But this latest statement, says Lawler, has the Catholic world a bit flustered. "It's a statement that, if he's quoted at all accurately, creates a crisis – because the pope cannot contradict what the [Catholic] Church teaches," he explains. "It is a matter of Catholic faith, of official Catholic teaching, that there is a hell."
In addition, this isn't the first time Pope Francis has made controversial comments, Lawler notes. Francis, he says, is quite a change from the popes that came before him.
"It's causing enormous confusion, and I think some divisions among the faithful – between those who are delighted with what the pope is saying and those who, like me, are dismayed," he shares.
And confusion, states Lawler, "is the hallmark of this pontificate."
Lawler concludes by sharing that because these latest comments have created an "unprecedented" crisis, he's not sure how it gets resolved.
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