Catholic Catechism: “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.”617
In an interview to mark his 10-year anniversary, Pope Francis appeared to deny the existence of Hell, saying that “is not a place” but is instead simply “a state of the heart” and “a posture towards life.”
The pontiff’s comments formed part of a lengthy conversation conducted by Argentinian news site Perfil, one of a number of recent interviews the Pope granted journalists to mark his decade upon the papal throne. Touching on a number of topics he discussed with other reporters, Francis also spoke about his philosophical and theological thought, along with aspects relating to global politics.
“And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” Matthew 24:4
As part of the in-depth discussion, Francis was asked, “What is your own interpretation of Hell and paradise, and what happens to people who go to Hell, and what happens to those who go to paradise?”
Giving a trademark lengthy, convoluted, and somewhat evasive answer, Francis appeared to deny the existence of Hell as an actual place. “Hell is not a place,” he said. “If one goes to attend the Last Judgment, and sees the faces of those who go to Hell, one gets scared. If you read Dante, you get scared. But these are media representations.”
Expanding on his answer, Francis described Hell simply as “a state” — a description which appeared to refer to a state of mind. “Hell is a state, there are people who live in Hell continuously.”
He clarified that he was not referring to suffering generally, but to “those who make a world of bad or sick self-referentiality, and end up living in Hell.”
Hell is a state, it is a state of the heart, of the soul, of a posture towards life, towards values, towards the family, towards everything. There are people who live in Hell because they seek it, there are others who do not, who are suffering. And who goes to Hell, to that Hell, to that state? They are already living from here.
Not content with appearing to deny the existence of Hell, however, Francis implied that there was no one actually in Hell — an about-turn in his argument that saw him appear to thus accept that Hell could be real.