The Times reports:
Hell is a place where sinners really do burn in an everlasting fire, and not just a religious symbol designed to galvanise the faithful, the Pope has said.
Addressing a parish gathering in a northern suburb of Rome, Benedict XVI said that in the modern world many people, including some believers, had forgotten that if they failed to “admit blame and promise to sin no more”, they risked “eternal damnation — the Inferno”.
Hell “really exists and is eternal, even if nobody talks about it much any more”, he said.
Here’s the homily (in Italian). But guess what? It appears to have only that one statement about hell. Nothing more. Must be a slow news day.
The more interesting questions–what is the nature of hell, and what does “eternal” mean–aren’t dealt with in the homily or the articles. And if it is “eternal” in the sense of God punishing the damned for ever and ever for a short human life’s worth of sin, then is this proportionate? Is this just? Does this not then make evil an eternal reality that God will never be able to cleanse the universe from? These are some interesting questions that he doesn’t get around to discussing in this homily. He did deal with some of them in Eschatology.