Did Pope Francis really say there is no hell?

Is there a hell? Reports have been circulating that Pope Francis said that there was no hell, but Vatican officials are saying not so fast.

It all started when the pope sat down with Eugenio Scalfari, the founder of La Repubblica, in a conversation in which Scalfari, who is an atheist, asked where bad souls go when someone dies.

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Scalfari reported that the pope said "hell does not exist," Fox News reported.

He quoted the pope as saying, “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.”

But USA Today reported that Scalfari does not record interviews or take notes.

The Vatican attributed the faith-shaking statement as "the fruit of his (the reporter's) reconstruction, in which the priceless words uttered by the pope are not cited. No quotations in the aforementioned article, then, should be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father."

Catholic doctrine teaches that there is a hell and it is for eternity, the BBC reported.

According to Catholic catechism, the soul of an unrepentant sinner will go to hell and suffer in eternal fire, the BBC reported.

The catechism continues: "The main punishment of hell is the eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs," The Washington Post reported.

The subject of hell and the church's stance has been debated in the recent past, with Pope Benedict XVI, saying hell "really exists and is eternal, even if nobody talks about it much anymore," Fox News reported.

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