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The Pope Abandons Limbo! Will Purgatory follow?

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The Pope authorized the Roman Catholic Church's International Theological Commission on April 22, 2007 to publish a 41-page document titled: “The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die without Being Baptized.”

Britain's newspaper-website, , in an article written by Nick Pisa in Rome, reports: “Babies who die before being baptized will no longer be trapped in Limbo following a decision by the Pope to abolish the concept from Roman Catholic teaching. The decision was taken after Pope Benedict XVI was presented with Vatican studies that said there were 'serious' grounds that such souls could go to heaven, rather than exist between heaven and hell as they have done for almost 800 years.”

According to the same report, it was in early 1984 when then Cardinal Prefect Joseph Ratzinger of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, announced in The Ratzinger Report that as a private theologian he rejected the claim that children who die unbaptized cannot attain salvation, and that he was also speaking for many academic theologians of similar understanding.

Thus by 1992 the Catechism of the Catholic Church expressed the hope that children who die without being baptized might still be saved when it stated: “As regards children who have died without baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God, who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children, which caused him to say, 'Let the children come to me, do not hinder them' [Mark 10:14 Mark 10:14But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said to them, Suffer the little children to come to me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
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, cf. 1 Timothy 2:4 1 Timothy 2:4Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
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], allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without baptism.”

The doctrine of Limbo was introduced by the eminent Catholic philosopher Augustine (354-430). He concluded that infants who died without baptism were consigned to hell. Consequently, in 385 Pope Siricius wrote to Bishop Himerius that he felt bound in conscience—for the sake of his own salvation—to warn Himerius that he should insist on the baptism of infants as well as adults in his diocese. However, not all parishioners sought Catholic baptism for their children.

More than 800 years later, Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), an Italian Dominican monk, theologian and philosopher came up with Limbo as a state of natural happiness for unbaptized children, as well as for others lacking the use of reason; but taught that a reward of supernatural happiness for them was inappropriate because of their original sin .

Limbo, from Latin limbus meaning edge or boundary (of hell by implication), was thereafter taught to be a state after death in Roman Catholic theology. It was compartmentalized into two categories, one for children called limbus infantium and the second for the Fathers called limbus patrum, a temporary state of the souls of anciently righteous people.

It was in the 14th century that the Italian poet Dante Alighiere (1265-1321) wrote his most popular literary work Divina Commedia (The Divine Comedy). Overlooked by most is the fact that his work intentionally included the word commedia (comedy) because he made fun of (did a parody / satire of) the then popular religious teachings of Limbo, Purgatory, and Paradise, and even assigned known personalities of his day into those various categories!

The decision of the present Pope marks a gradual softening of the Catholic view towards those who die without being baptized. Pope Benedict XVI, prior to his election to the Papacy, was already on record for his personal disbelief in Limbo. Since, from a biblical perspective, the doctrine of purgatory stands in the same category as Limbo, will it be next for review by Catholic religious scholars? For that we will have to wait to see.

But an important lesson should be learned from this significant change in a long embedded religious doctrine. We can see that even in our society's largest and most entrenched religious body professing that its beliefs represent those of Jesus Christ there can be long-held teachings and traditions which (upon in-depth study) turn out to be in error.

Rather than embracing—without proof—religious ideas which you may not have yet personally examined, why not take time to do some in-depth biblical study on your own? We can help by providing you—free and without any obligation—reliably researched and accurately documented reading material on biblical subjects.

For a clear understanding of the state of the dead, your own future and that of all the billions of humans who ever lived, read the online Bible study aids What Happens After Death? and Heaven & Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach?

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  • Virginia

    Limbo was never an official teaching. It was only an attempt to explain something difficult, because the bible says that you need baptism to be saved, that is, you need to “put on Christ”, because we are all born under Adam.

    The official position of the Church on the subject was agnostic.
    So Catholics didn’t have to believe in limbo.

    Purgatory on the other hand, is different. But there are many myths about what the Church officially believes.

    Here is what the Church actually believes: purgatory is a cleansing, because “There shall not enter into it any thing defiled” Rev. 21:27
    Also because there are places in the bible that suggest something that is not heaven but it’s not hell either. One of them is 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.
    “10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw– 13 each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

    This is it, that’s all Purgatory is, nothing less, nothing more, just what Paul is saying. Everything else is myth. The Church is officially agnostic about the details of this purification.

    There is also evidence, both historic (i.e. Maccabees) and archaeological (i.e. inscriptions on Christians tombs), that Jewish and early Christians prayed for the dead, and still do.

  • pllavallee

    Commedia or comedy as a literary application refers to the type of ending, not necessarily to the ‘modern’ Seinfeld stand up sense of the term. As practiced by the Greeks, comedy referred to a generally ‘happy’ ending, whereas tragedy ended quite the opposite. Given that perspective, Dante’s view is pretty optimistic, n’est ce pas?

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