Original Document/Location at Vatican website
Additional Commentary by Scott Windsor in Blue


Wednesday 28 July 1999

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our catechesis last week focused on heaven, and this week we consider the reality of hell, the final destiny of those who reject the love of God and refuse his forgiveness.

Please note the "reality" of hell.

Hell is not a punishment imposed externally by God, but the condition resulting from attitudes and actions which people adopt in this life. It is the ultimate consequence of sin itself. Sacred Scripture uses many images to describe the pain, frustration and emptiness of life without God. More than a physical place, hell is the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy.
It is from the above that many have taken the Holy Father out of context. I have been asked by some Protestants about "the Pope saying hell is a state of mind." Did His Holiness say that? No, he said, "hell is THE state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God." A "state" is a 1 a : mode or condition of being . Please note he also said that it is "more than a physical place," meaning it is a physical place and more.
So eternal damnation is not God’s work but is actually our own doing.

We convict ourselves to hell. God has given us the means to avoid this "place" but if we choose to ignore or abandon God, then we send ourselves there.

Christian faith teaches us that there are creatures who have already given a definitive “no” to God; these are the spirits which rebelled against God and whom we call demons. They serve as a warning for human beings: eternal damnation remains a real possibility for us too. The reality of hell
Again, His Holiness makes reference to the "reality" of hell. Hell is not a mere state of mind, but a reality.
should not, however, be a cause of anxiety or despair for believers. Rather, it is a necessary and healthy reminder that human freedom has to be conformed to the example of Jesus, who always said “yes” to God, who conquered Satan, and who gave us his Spirit so that we too could call God “Father”.

* * * * *

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s audience, especially those from England, Scotland, Nigeria, Hong Kong and the United States of America. I wish you a pleasant visit to Christian Rome and I invoke upon you the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Original Vatican Document

So, clearly we see, if taken in context, the Pope did NOT say "hell is a state of mind," rather, hell is MORE than just a physical place (which by default it is a physical place as well) but also a state (of being)."

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