Pope Francis says hell – believed to be a place of condemnation for deceased sinners – does not exist.
The pontif reportedly said this in an interview with Daily La Repubblica, an Italian newspaper.
"There is no hell where the souls of sinners suffer in eternity," he was quoted as saying.
"After death, the souls of people who repent are pardoned by God and join in his contemplation. But those who do not repent, and therefore cannot be pardoned, disappear.
"Hell does not exist… what exists is the disappearance of sinful souls."
The pope was interviewed by Eugenio Scalfari, a veteran Italian journalist and atheist who regularly muses about faith and religion, and enjoys access to the leader of the Catholic church.
In the past, the veracity of quotes he attributed to the pope has been called into question, especially after the 93-year-old Scalfari admitted to never using a tape recorder during interviews.
The Vatican has never complained about Scalfari's work, and Francis has continued giving interview to him.
It is part of the beliefs of Catholics all over the world that there is a place like hell, meant for punishment of sinners after they have died.