The Catholic Church has preached the doctrine of hell since its founding, given that its founder, Jesus Christ, talked about it more than anyone in the New Testament.
Fathers of the Church affirmed the doctrine of hell, various Saints and Popes have affirmed the doctrine of hell, anyone who reads the comment threads on Facebook can affirm the doctrine of hell. In sum, the Catholic Church could not ever change what is established dogma even if a current or future Pope were to say something in private as ridiculous as "hell doesn’t exist, the disappearance of the souls of sinners exists," which is what one Italian journalist alleges that Pope Francis told him in a recent interview.
According to the 93-year-old Eugenio Scalfari, an atheist journalist at the leftist publication La Repubblica, Pope Francis apparently "abolished" hell by adopting the heretical doctrine of annihilation — the idea that unrepentant souls simply cease to exist after death rather than eternal damnation.
"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," Scalfari alleges Pope Francis said.
"There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls," he allegedly added.
It should be noted that Pope Francis did not grant Mr. Scalfari an interview, but only a “private meeting for the occasion of Easter," according to the Vatican, which immediately denied Scalfari's claims upon publication of the article.
"What is reported by the author in today’s article is the result of his reconstruction, in which the literal words pronounced by the Pope are not quoted," the Vatican said in a statement. "No quotation of the aforementioned article must therefore be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father."
Eugenio Scalfari is also a proven manipulator who has either misrepresented statements or downright falsified them in the past. Catholic News Agency profiled his many mea culpas throughout the current Pontiff's reign:
Scalfari’s fifth meeting with Pope Francis, it is not the first time he has misrepresented the Pope’s words following a private audience.
In November 2013, following intense controversy over quotes the journalist had attributed to Francis, Scalfari admitted that at least some of the words he had published a month prior 'were not shared by the Pope himself.'
The 93-year-old Scalfari even admitted in a meeting with the journalists of the Foreign Press Association of Rome in 2013 that he uses no recording device or notes when interviewing a subject, which casts serious doubt on his credibility. “I try to understand the person I am interviewing, and after that I write his answers with my own words,” Scalfari said of his methods, admitting it's wholly possible that “some of the Pope’s words I reported, were not shared by Pope Francis.”
This is not even the first time Scalfari has misreported Pope Francis' comments on hell; he also did in 2015.
Pope Francis' public ministry has also been replete with references to hell and Satan, affirming the existence of both on more than one occasion. Here's what he said just last year while speaking at the Marian shrine of Fatima: “Our Lady foretold, and warned us about, a way of life that is godless and indeed profanes God in his creatures. Such a life — frequently proposed and imposed — risks leading to Hell.”
In 2016, while saying Mass at the Vatican, Pope Francis also warned that failing to remain faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ leads to damnation. The Pope's references to Satan have been even more forceful, dismissing the silly notion that he does not exist.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says of hell: "The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of Hell and its eternity. 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’.”
Given all this information, it is highly irresponsible and misleading for mainstream publications like Newsweek to publish headlines like "Does Hell Exist? Pope Francis Says No In A New Interview That Could Change The Catholic Church Forever."