It has been misreported, and this has led some people to misread it (e.g., Kevin Beck, whose misreading is rather massive and uncritical), so it seems fitting to say something about the Pope's recent comments on hell. Readers might have been tipped off by the fact that, for instance, the FOXNews report and contradicts itself, claiming that the Pope said hell is a place in the headline, but in the body quoting Vatican officials as denying that hell is a place. So does the Times report from which it is derived. Indeed, since most of the reports seem derived from the Times report, they all contradict themselves. Just a little bit of common sense would suffice to suspect that there was an error at some point; and a critical sense of inquiry would then look more closely at the matter rather than jumping to conclusions. As it often does, the Guardian manages to deliver a more intelligent bit of journalism.
In Catholic thought, as represented by the Catechism, hell is not a place but a moral state involving the absence of charity or love for both God and neighbor; it is thought to be expressed even on earth in things like genocides and the Holocaust, rape and murder. This is pretty basic.