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Hell or no Hell? Quote or misquote? Pope Francis allegedly breaks from church teaching again in fifth conversation with Italian journalist

Last week, Pope Francis reportedly told Eugenio Scalfari, the founder of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, that Hell does not exist.

“There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls,” Scalfari quoted the pontiff saying.

On Friday, March 30, after Scalfari published his story, The Vatican published this statement  challenging its credibility:

“The Holy Father recently received the founder of the newspaper La Repubblica in a private meeting on the occasion of Easter, without, however, granting him an interview. What is reported by the author in today’s article is the fruit of his reconstruction, in which the precise 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.”

This is not the first time Scalfari has published from his conversations with Pope Francis. In fact, the two’s recent conversation was their fifth since the pope’s election in 2013. Following each of their meetings, Scalfari has quoted the pope saying highly controversial things, prompting defenses from the Vatican. Central to Rome’s defenses over the years has been that Scalfari does not record his conversations with the pope but recalls them from memory.

In November 2016, Scalfari wrote that Pope Francis told him “it is the communists who think like Christians.” Luis Badilla Morales, director of what the National Catholic Register has called the “semi-official Vatican news aggregator,” Il Sismografo, said at the time that the conversation in which that was allegedly said was not recorded.

In November of 2015, Scalfari published a story quoting Pope Francis saying that “all divorced who ask will be admitted” to receive the Holy Eucharist. Those divorced who have remarried and whose previous marriages have not been annulled are living in grave sin according to church law, and are not permitted to receive the sacrament.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told the National Catholic Register at the time, “As has already occurred in the past, Scalfari refers in quotes to what the Pope supposedly told him, but many times it does not correspond to reality, since he does not record nor transcribe the exact words of the Pope, as he himself has said many times. So it is clear that what is being reported by him in the latest article about the divorced and remarried is in no way a reliable and cannot be considered as the Pope’s thinking.”

The past circumstance that Lombardi was referring to occurred in 2014, when Scalfari quoted Francis saying “even bishops and cardinals” are pedophiles and that “others, more numerous, know but keep silent.”

Father Federico responded to the news by saying that the Pope and Salfari had a cordial conversation.

“However,” Federico said, “as it happened in a previous, similar circumstance, it is important to notice that that words that Mr. Scalfari attributes to the Pope, ‘in quotations’ come from the expert journalist Scalfari’s own memory of what the Pope said and is not an exact transcription of a recording nor a review of such a transcript by the Pope himself to whom the words are attributed.”

The previous, similar circumstance to which Federico was referring occurred in 2013, when Scalfari reported that Francis told him that the Catholic doctrine of sin had been abolished.

Scalfari said that he had not used a tape recorder or taken notes during the conversation in which Pope Francis allegedly made that significant revision to Catholic theology.

Pope Francis has demonstrated a constant desire to engage those outside the faith, and Scalfari in particular, to whom he wrote an extensive letter in September of 2013 in which he evangelized Scalfari, answering spiritual reflections that the journalist published in an edition of his paper months earlier.

It’s puzzling that Pope Francis repeatedly returns to Scalfari, having been misquoted after each meeting, but it may have something to do with his strategy of evangelization.

@jeremywbeaman is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News


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