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VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — Famous Italian comedian Roberto Benigni told young children gathered in Rome last month for the Vatican’s first World Children’s Day that there is no hell or purgatory, contrary to divine revelation and explicit Catholic teaching.

Speaking to thousands of children in St. Peter’s Square in the presence of Pope Francis on Sunday, May 26, Benigni – who is perhaps most known for his World War II movie, Life is Beautiful, which he wrote, directed, and acted – joked about being sent to hell or purgatory for lying when being judged after death.

Saying he always hopes St. Peter will give him a kind of pass, as it were, into heaven, he then went on to tell the Catholic children gathered before the Pope that they had nothing to fear, because “there is no such thing as hell, purgatory,” but “there is only heaven,” in contradiction to the abundant testimony of Sacred Scripture, most prominently the express words of Christ Himself, and the constant and universal teaching of the Church.

He further asserted that heaven consisted in childhood and that children were already there in an apparent denial of the supernatural glory of the beatific vision, which Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium have always taught.

“I can’t tell a lie in front of His Holiness,” Benigni said. “No, don’t make me tell a lie in front of the Pope because later when I die, I stand there with St. Peter saying to me, ‘Oh, Benigni, you told them a lie in front of the Pope. Oh, now I have to send you to hell or purgatory: 50 years! Mamma mia! What a scare!’”

“But I think always when I die that, I stand there in front of the gates of heaven with St. Peter waiting for me, to judge me, I always hope he’ll give me a scape and let me go in: Benigni, don’t make me think again – Go!  I always hope this.”

“But you, don’t be afraid, because there is no such thing as hell, purgatory. There is only heaven, the one you are in now, the realm of childhood, of youth, buzzing with dreams.”

The denial of hell and purgatory is a heresy that directly contradicts divine revelation and constant Catholic teaching.

As part of his professional career, Benigni toured Italy performing recitations of Dante’s Divine Comedy, the first two parts of which narrate the torments of the damned for every kind of mortal sin in the Inferno and the sufferings of souls who must be purified of venial sin before entering heaven in the Purgatorio.

Earlier this year, in a January 14 interview on Italian television, Pope Francis said that he likes to think hell is empty. The statement reflects what the Pope has said in numerous interviews previously on the subject, with famous atheist author Eugenio Scalfari in the left-wing newspaper La Repubblica.

In March 2015, Scalfari asked about people going to hell and Pope Francis reportedly replied, “There is no punishment, but the annihilation of that soul. All the others will participate in the beatitude of living in the presence of the Father. The souls that are annihilated will not take part in that banquet; with the death of the body their journey is finished.”

WATCH: Pope Francis likes ‘to think of an empty hell’

The idea that hell may be empty runs contrary both to Scripture, in which Christ reveals that at the Last Judgment He will condemn the wicked to eternal fire, and to Catholic tradition, which has always held that, as Christ teaches, “the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many” (Mt 7:13).

The day before Benigni’s denial of hell to the children gathered at St. Peter’s, the Vatican hosted a scandalous, sexual drag-queen performance at Rome’s Olympic Stadium.

On May 25, Salerno native Carmine De Rosa performed as one of the official artists for the inaugural World Children’s Day. In his capacity as a quick-change artist or a living cartoon, De Rosa appeared as a woman, wearing multiple outfits in drag. He also used suggestive cardboard costumes.

Children sat in a circle around De Rosa as he performed. His demonstration took place at Rome’s Olympic Stadium – where, later in the day, Pope Francis met with thousands of young children from across the world.

Bishop Joseph Strickland condemned the drag performance at the event, calling on Pope Francis to address the performance, and demanding that whoever was responsible for the drag performance be removed. If, the bishop says, he can be removed for teaching the truth, then whoever organized the performance can themselves be removed. Francis has made it “clear” he needs no process or discussion to act.

WATCH: Bishop Strickland: Cooperating with evil means we are ‘playing with fire’

“Pope Francis, you need to act in this case,” Strickland says forcefully. “You need to remove anyone and everyone who allowed this to happen because it is evil. Evil is dancing in the Vatican, and we cannot sit on our hands and quietly say, ‘Oh, that’s too bad,’ or ‘Oh, that’s not very nice.’ It is evil! And it needs to be called out.”

Every cardinal in Rome, the bishop continues, needs to demand that it stop immediately – no studies made later, but now. Speaking to the corruption of children, Strickland says that it is “bad enough” to see it at public libraries, but to see the Church not only allow it but likely promote it must stop.

“They can do whatever they want to do further to me, but that demands an outcry that should be loud and strong and clear, for the sake of the children and for the sake of the Church,” he stated.

Commenting on De Rosa’s performance, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó, the former Papal Nuncio to the United States, attested that his inclusion in the international event demonstrated Vatican support for LGBT ideology.

“It is now clear that Bergoglio is one of the main activists of the hellish LGBTQ+ agenda,” the prelate wrote, noting Christ’s warning in the Gospel about causing scandal: “There are no more words to express the scandal and disgust, in the complicit and cowardly silence of the Episcopate. ‘Whoever scandalizes even one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for him if a millstone turned into a donkey’s wheel were hung around his neck, and he were cast into the depths of the sea’ (Mt 18:6).”


Unpacking Pope Francis’ opinion of an ‘EMPTY HELL’