In his Address at the Church of “San Gregorio VII”, Rome, on Friday, 21 March 2014, Pope Francis stated:
“And I feel that I cannot conclude without saying a word to the absent bosses today, to those absent but central figures: the men and women of the mafia. Please, change your lives, convert, stop, cease to do evil! We are praying for you. Convert, I ask it on my knees; it is for your own good. This life you are living now, it won’t bring you pleasure, it won’t give you joy, it won’t bring you happiness. The power, the money, that you possess now from so many dirty transactions, from so many mafia crimes, is blood-stained money, it is power soaked in blood, and you cannot take it with you to the next life. Convert, there is still time, so that you don’t end up in hell. That is what awaits you if you continue on this path. You had a father and a mother: think of them. Cry a little and convert.”
Emphasis added. Pope Francis warned the mafia bosses that, if they do not convert, they will end up in hell. He stated unequivocally: “That is what awaits you if you continue on this path.” Therefore, Pope Francis does believe hell exists and has taught that it exists.
But do the souls in hell continue in hell forever? Pope Francis answers that question in his message for Lent 2016:
“By taking this path, the “proud”, the “powerful” and the “wealthy” spoken of in the Magnificat can also be embraced and undeservedly loved by the crucified Lord who died and rose for them. This love alone is the answer to that yearning for infinite happiness and love that we think we can satisfy with the idols of knowledge, power and riches. Yet the danger always remains that by a constant refusal to open the doors of their hearts to Christ who knocks on them in the poor, the proud, rich and powerful will end up condemning themselves and plunging into the eternal abyss of solitude which is Hell.“
Hell is the “eternal” abyss of solitude. Thus, it continues forever. Hell is called solitude because, without love, there is loneliness, no matter how many other souls go to Hell with you. And the condemned souls are said to condemn themselves because they only go to Hell due to their own choices in life.
Finally, in his morning meditation on 22 November 2016, Pope Francis taught the following:
“We are therefore faced with a real and true “call from the Lord to think seriously about the end: about my end, the judgment, about my judgment”. In this regard, the Pope recalled how when we are children we go “to catechism” class, and are taught “four things: death, judgment, hell or glory”.
Of course, some might say: “Father, this frightens us”. However, Francis replied: “It is the truth. Because if you do not take care of your heart”, and “you always live far away from the Lord, perhaps there is the danger, the danger of continuing in this way, far away from the Lord for eternity. This is very bad!”.”
We are taught, from our very childhood, that hell exists. And if this “frightens us”, the Pope nevertheless says, “It is the truth”. There is in fact a danger that souls who choose to live far away from the Lord, in this life, will continue to be “far away from the Lord for eternity”. So Hell exists, some souls go there, and Hell continues forever.
Recently, a 93 year old atheist communist, who publishes a newspaper, claimed that Pope Francis said hell does not exist, and that after death, the bad souls simply disappear. This man has, in the past, been discovered to have given very inaccurate descriptions of his conversations with Pope Francis. He talks to the Pope, makes no recordings and takes no notes, and they he publishes a word-for-word conversation, which cannot possibly be correct given his age, the lack of notes and recordings, and his history of misreporting what the Pope says.
In addition, being an atheist, the man does not have the theological background to correctly understand any theological points that the Roman Pontiff might make. It is easy for a non-believer to misunderstand any point of theology at all, since they have no basic understanding of the faith on which to rely.
UPDATED to add this link to a National Catholic Register story noting a conversation the Pope had with children on 8 March 2015. At that time, the Pope again asserted that Hell exists, and “you go there because you choose to be there.”
Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.