Pope Francis Wishes Hell Were Empty

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Pope Francis Wishes Hell Were Empty
Pope Francis Wishes Hell Were Empty
Photo: © Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.” This good counsel from Holy Scripture (Ecclus. 7:36) is especially relevant today with the loss of the love of God and the sense of sin.

Unfortunately, one cause of this loss is that the faithful rarely hear from the pulpit anymore about the last end. Church teaching calls this end the Four Last Things—death, judgment, heaven, and hell. Especially unmentioned is the notion of hell. As a result, the fear of God is also lost. However, the Book of Proverbs teaches: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (9:10-12).

The topic of hell surfaced recently after the scandal caused by the papal document Fiducia Supplicans, which allows the blessing of adulterous and homosexual relationships. Many were shocked to see Pope Francis—who had earlier presented the traitorous and suicidal Judas1 as an example of God’s mercy—imply that the hell does not exist or that it is empty.

“I like to think hell is empty”

Pope Francis made these comments about hell in a lengthy interview (over 50 minutes) on January 14 on the popular TV program “Che Tempo Che Fa” (“How’s the Weather”) on Italy’s channel Nove. At one point, “Pope Francis was asked how he imagines hell if he really believes God forgives everyone who asks.” The Argentine pontiff began his reply in a somewhat dubious tone: “It’s difficult to imagine it.” He continues: “What I would say is not a dogma of faith, but my personal thought: I like to think hell is empty; I hope it is.”2

Saying that one “hopes” that hell is empty is practically the same as denying its existence, for there would be no point for God to create a place of torment to punish unrepentant sinners and then leave it eternally “empty.” He would have done something useless, which is absurd. If God did something useless, he would not be wise or be Wisdom itself.

Eternal and Natural Law: The Foundation of Morals and Law

Likewise, to “hope” that hell is empty is to hope that an unrepentant sinner who offends God will go unpunished. It runs counter to God’s justice. Just as God rewards with heaven the good who follow His Law, He punishes with hell the unrepentant wicked men who die His enemies.

In both the Old and New Testaments, Sacred Scripture is filled with references to hell, where unrepentant sinners go, and the fact it is eternal.3 The Magisterium of the Church and the popes and councils always taught the existence of hell as an eternal punishment.4

Our Lord Taught That Hell Exists

On the other hand, Our Lord taught clearly and definitively about the existence of hell as an eternal punishment. To claim that it is difficult to imagine the existence of hell is at least to cast doubt on a truth of the Faith.

The Scriptural references are overwhelming.

Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matt. 25:41)

“[A]t the end of the world, [t]he Son of man shall send his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all scandals, and them that work iniquity. And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 13:41-42)

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“It is better for thee with one eye to enter into the kingdom of God than having two eyes to be cast into the hell of fire: Where their worm dies not, and the fire is not extinguished.” (Mark 9:46-47)

Multiple Denials of the Existence of Hell

This is not the first time that Pope Francis denied the reality of hell as taught by the Church. In 2015, his close friend and confidant, the atheist journalist Eugenio Scalfari, wrote in his newspaper La Repubblica that, in a personal conversation with the Pope, he had denied the existence of hell and the immortality of the soul.5 The Vatican published a statement saying that the words transcribed in the article were not verbatim but did not deny that the journalist had met Pope Francis or that Pope Francis had said what Scalfari claimed. Even more significant is that the talks between the Pope and the journalist continued, despite other statements by the latter attributed to the former, which caused further scandals.

On March 29, 2018, Scalfari again wrote in his newspaper that Pope Francis had repeated in nearly the same language what he had said about hell years earlier. To the journalist’s question about where the wicked were punished, Pope Francis replied:

“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.”6

This statement caused a new scandal because Pope Francis denied two truths of the Faith: the existence of hell and the immortality of the soul.7 The theory that there is no hell and that the souls of the wicked will be destroyed comes from Gnosticism and some branches of Protestantism.8

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Despite the general shock and insistent requests from journalists, the Vatican press service took nine hours to issue a press release repeating the same excuse given on similar occasions: Scalfari did not record his conversations with Pope Francis, and the words he attributed to the Pope were not verbatim.9 Nonetheless, Pope Francis’ conversations with Scalfari continued, as did his claims…

On March 7, 2018, the newspaper Italia Oggi published a comment titled “Non è la prima volta che il Papa afferma che l’inferno non c’è” [“It’s not the first time the Pope has said that hell doesn’t exist”]. “It is not new for the pope to say that…‘There is no hell, unrepentant souls are not punished but disappear…Scalfari had attributed it to him three times between 2014 and 2017 without receiving any denial.”10

At Fatima, Our Lady Showed the Children Hell

The Pope appears not to have remembered when speaking of hell that the Mother of Mercy herself, Our Lady, at Fatima, showed hell to the three shepherd children and said: “You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go.”

Sister Lucy recounts the vision she witnessed along with her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta, on July 13, 1917:

“We saw, as it were, a great sea of fire; submerged in that fire were demons and souls in human shapes who resembled red-hot, black and bronze-colored embers that floated about in the blaze, borne by the flames that issued from them with clouds of smoke, falling everywhere like the showering sparks of great blazes—with neither weight nor equilibrium—amidst shrieks and groans of sorrow and despair that horrified us and made us shudder with fear.

The devils stood out like frightful and unknown animals with horrible and disgusting shapes but transparent like black coals that have become red-hot.”11

During this Lenten season, let us meditate on the four last things. Let us keep in mind our final end and the terrible possibility of plunging into hell forever. At the same time, let us nurture the hope that, with the help of Mary Most Holy, we will go to the eternal happiness of heaven.


  1. Pope Francis and His Obscene Judas Painting, by Luiz Sérgio Solimeo April 22, 2021, https://www.tfp.org/pope-francis-and-his-obscene-judas-painting/ 3/1/24
  2. Cindy Wooden, “Pope Francis says he hopes hell is ’empty,'” Catholic News Service, January 15, 2024, https://www.americ..amagazine.org/faith/2024/01/15/pope-francis-resign-interview-246936 1/30/24
  3. See Xavier Léon-Dufour, ed., Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Geoffrey Chapman, London-Dublin, 1973, s.v. Hell; also, Hontheim, J. (1910). Hell. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton, Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07207a.htm, 2/6/24
  4. Cfr. Athanasian Symbol (D 40), Fourth Lateran Council (D 429), Innocent III (D 410), Council of Lyon (D 464), Benedict XII (D 531), Council of Florence (D 693). Father J. F. Sagués, in his De novissimis, after the quotations above, states that the existence of hell is of defined, divine and Catholic Faith, implicitly as to the pain of loss, and explicitly concerning the pain of the senses (D 531; Cf. 464, 693), in Sacrae Theologiae Suma, Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, Madrid, l956, IV, p. 872.[our translation]
  5. Eugenio Scalfari, “Quel che Francesco può dire all’Europa dei non credenti,” 14 Marzo 2015, https://www.repubblica.it/politica/2015/03/15/news/quel_che_francesco_puo_dire_all_europa_dei_non_credenti-109542750/ 2/2/24.
  6. “THERE IS NO HELL” — new Francis revelation to atheist journalist just in time for Good Friday, Rorate Coeli, 3/29/2018, https://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2018/03/there-is-no-hell-new-francis-revelation.html 1/30/24
  7. On the immortality of the soul, see LATERAN COUNCIL V 1512-1517, Bull Apostolici Regiminis, Session VIII, Denzinger 738.
  8. See J. F. Sagués, De novissimis, cit. pp. 952-953.
  9. Riccardo Cascioli, Scalfari e il Papa, una farsa che deve finire, https://lanuovabq.it/it/scalfari-e-il-papa-una-farsa-che-deve-finire 1/30/24
  10. Gianfranco Morra, “Non è la prima volta che il Papa afferma che l’inferno non c’è,” https://www.italiaoggi.it/news/non-e-la-prima-volta-che-il-papa-afferma-che-l-inferno-non-c-e-2259804
  11. See Luiz Sergio Solimeo, Fatima—A Message More Urgent than Ever (The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Propriety, 2020), pp. 44-45.

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