Pope: Purgatory is a process, not a place

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Purgatory is like a purifying fire burning inside a person, a painful experience of regret for one’s sins, Pope Benedict XVI said.

“A soul stained by sin cannot present itself to God,” the pope said Jan. 12 at his weekly general audience.

The pope spoke about purgatory in an audience talk dedicated to the life and mystical writings of St. Catherine of Genoa, a 15th-century married woman who ran Genoa’s largest hospital.


yes Jim, and if all would only ponder it and pray for enlightenment, they would clearly see it is a necessary process starting well before we leave this life and it will not stop even after death until the purifying is complete. Peace, Carlan

I don’t know. When I bought Holy Souls by Gerard J. M. van den Aardweg (terrific book) I would have probably said the same thing a process, not a place. But the author makes a good case that the process takes place somewhere. Actually, inside the earth! I know, my first reaction was, ‘come on, that’s like hell being in the center of the earth!’ Didn’t most of us get that impression when we were children? But citing Scripture, van den Aardweg shows it seems to be the case that Purgatory (not Hell) is actually down there somewhere. It’s not a critical issue; the reality of the process is. The Holy Father was not speaking infallibly, but he was reminding us all of a very important Church teaching.

Of course Purgatory is a place, in the same way Heaven is a place. Purgatory is a place where you undergo purgation, whether by fire internally or externally. Since we will be souls, or spirits, I conclude that the fire alluded to will be a spiritual one. The details are all up to God of course and none of us can say what the details are exactly.

Pope Benedict hasn’t said anywhere that Purgatory ‘is not a place’. Despite what has been reported, as a result of his short speech of St Catherine of Genoa on 12 January 2011, he did not say that Purgatory was not a place.

Purgatory is certainly a process but it is also in a place. It is not as if souls that need to undergo purgation will be left floating around the earth or wherever they die, and they will not be in Heaven while suffering purgation. I just can’t see why it is suddenly necessary to deny Purgatory as a place.

Gee. Purgatory does NOT have to be a place. Purgatory does NOT have to NOT be a place.

Seems to me… since our bodies are not yet resurrected, then the question centers on whether a soul, itself (herself, himself) occupies “space,” at all.

After all, souls do not take up physical space.

It’s just another one of those mysteries that God has chosen not to reveal to us (yet).

Rove, i don’t believe we are denying it,I don’t suppose we will really know how it will be until we get there;):slight_smile: but for sure we must be purified and souls perfect before we go to be with our God in heaven. :)Peace, Carlan

this really is a non-argument

If I say Rep Gifford is going to rehab I am both describing a process she will undergo to return to health and function, but also a physical place where this will take place. Nobody argues about what I mean. What, pray, is this incessent need to pick apart and deliberately misinterpret every word the Pope utters that seems to preoccupy the media?

That being said, how can a soul without a body be in a place, unless you intepret the word beyond the literal meaning of a physical location within the created universe. That attempt to limit God to human understanding in usage of human speech is a poverty of spirit, IMO.

Our soul without a body can be in Heaven, and Heaven is a place. Purgatory is also a place, a spiritual place. Purgatory has always been presented as a place by the Church and I don’t see any need to change that. It works for the intelligence we have. If the soul doesn’t go to Hell (also a spiritual place) at death, the soul has to be kept somewhere for purgation by God before it goes to Heaven.

But also as Carlan suggests, we won’t know exactly until we get there.

I seem to recall, and I could be wrong so don’t take this to the bank, but Pope Benedict XVI is coming out with a book on Purgatory.

Do I have this right, or did he already write one?

Maybe this statement is the forerunner to release of the book?


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