The world media was in an uproar after Pope Francis declared "hell does not exist". Frantic Catholics took to Twitter.com in hopes of finding an explanation for the Pope's statement. Many asked, "If hell doesn't exist, why did Christ die on the cross for our sins?"
The furor started when Eugenio Scalfari, 93, an atheist journalist, claimed the Pope told him there was no hell.
“Souls are not punished,” Francis allegedly told Scalfari. “Those who repent obtain God's forgiveness and go among the ranks of those who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot be forgiven disappear. There is no hell — there is the disappearance of sinful souls."
The news spread around the world like wildfire. Link aggregator website Drudgereport.com screamed “POPE DECLARES NO HELL?” in huge bold red font.
The New Yorker magazine thought it was "beyond ironic" that the Pope had any atheist friends at all.
Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft, told the Boston Globe, “If there’s no hell, then heaven is no big deal."
Journalist Tara Isabella Burton wrote, “If the Pope indeed said those words, the consequences would be catastrophic for the Catholic Church."
And conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh accused the left-leaning Pope of "corrupting the Catholic Church".
After a delay that some Catholics said was uncomfortably long, the Vatican finally issued a response -- telling Catholics not to trust Scalfari's report.
The Vatican reassured believers that Pope Francis does indeed believe in hell and that “no quotation of the article should be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father."
The New York Times informed readers that Scalfari rarely makes notes or uses a tape recorder during interviews.
In a Catholic Herald article titled “Why on earth does Pope Francis still trust Eugenio Scalfari?”, journalist Christopher Altieri suggested the Pope should resign from office "and go talk with his friend all day over vino burino and biscola".
The bottom line is the Pope is just a man who is not without fault.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church unequivocally affirms the existence of hell and the immortality of the human soul.
"Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where 'men will weep and gnash their teeth’(1036)."