- Chunks of plaster fell from ceiling of St. Peter’s Basilica on Thursday
- Hours earlier newspaper ran interview with Pope saying ‘Hell doesn’t exist’
- The Vatican has denied that Pope Francis ever made the comments to journalist
The Vatican has had to seal off part of St. Peter’s Basilica after chunks of plaster fell from the ceiling just hours after Pope Francis is alleged to have proclaimed that ‘Hell’ does not exist.
Bits of the ceiling rained down over worshippers near Michelangelo’s famed Pieta statue to the right of the main entrance, although no one was injured.
A Vatican spokesman said the basilica remains open with the affected areas sealed off until later today.
The sky is falling: Parts of the ceiling in the St. Peter’s Basilica fell in on Thursday
It comes after the Pope was sensationally quoted as saying that hell does not exist and souls not worthy of heaven merely disappear instead of being tormented.
But the Vatican quickly denied the apparent dramatic theological shift, accusing atheist reporter Eugenio Scalfari of ‘reconstructing’ his words.
Catholic teaching dictates that ‘immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell’.
Scalfari, 93, in his fifth interview of Pope Francis published in La Repubblica, asked what happened to ‘bad souls’ after their bodies died.
Denial: Hours before the incident in the Basilica, Pope Francis had to deny that he had told an Italian journalist that hell did not exist
‘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,’ he quoted the Pope as replying.
‘There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls.’
The Vatican on Thursday said the Italian journalist and the Pope had a private meeting but claimed it was ‘without giving him any interview’.
Holy Week sees floods of pilgrims and tourists visiting St. Peter’s, taking part in Pope Francis’ ceremonies, which are capped by Easter Sunday celebrations outside in St. Peter’s Square.