It was reported he argued that unrepentant souls will simply disappear, going unpunished.
His quote drew worldwide attention and reportedly caused panic within the church.
The 12 inmates included Catholics, Muslims, an Orthodox Christian and a Buddhist, the Vatican said.
The Vatican hasn't denied Francis' comments to the La Repubblica newspaper at the height of Holy Week, saying only that Francis' quotes can't be considered a "faithful transcript" of what he said since the journalist reconstructed a conversation.
"There is no hell where the souls of sinners suffer in eternity", Scalfari quoted the pope to have said.
If the words were true it would go against what the Catholic Church believes in.
Maybe that's what Francis had in mind, though Scalfari's account suggests something significantly less traditional: Christian mortalism, the belief that souls bereft of salvation are either extinguished at death, or do not participate in the general Resurrection at the end of time.
He said he knew what some say: "Father, this frightens us".
Since his election in 2013, the pope has moved the feet washing ceremony outside the walls of the Vatican and into centres for vulnerable people or those on society's margins.
Before washing the feet of 12 prisoners, Pope Francis told them and hundreds of inmates to remember that Jesus constantly stands before them with love, ready to cleanse their sins and forgive them.
Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame, 44, had convinced the gunman, identified as Redouane Lakdim, to allow him to take the place of a woman Lakdim was holding hostage March 23 in a grocery store in Trebes, a small town in southern France.
He said many should feel "shame because our generations are leaving young people a world that is fractured by divisions and wars, a world devoured by selfishness".
If priests are to say, as Mary does to the servants at the wedding in Cana, "Do whatever he tells you", they must first be like her - present where things are "brewing", like at the wedding feast, he said.
Pope Francis's schedule for Easter includes the Way of the Cross procession on Good Friday at the Colosseum, a Holy Saturday Easter vigil and Easter Sunday Mass at St. Peter's Basilica.
He the wrote that the pope answered: "They are not punished".
Gendron says the Pope has not ruled out a visit to Canada and a meeting with Indigenous Peoples, but in the meantime is encouraging Canadian bishops to continue working with Indigenous Peoples on reconciliation issues and projects that help with healing.
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