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The Pope On Purgatory


Expressed in his new encyclical, Spe Salvi [Saved in Hope] He explains his view, which happens to be the view of the Church:  

Some theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Saviour.  The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgement [sic].  Before his gaze all falsehood melts away.  This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves.  …His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation ‘as through fire.’  But it is a  blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God.  In this way the inter-relation between justice and grace also becomes clear:  the way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us forever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love.  …The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy.  It is clear that we cannot calculate the ‘duration’ of this transforming burning in terms of the chronological measurements of this world.  The transforming ‘moment’ of this encounter eludes earthly time-reckoning—it is the heart’s time, it is the time of ‘passage’ to communion with God in the Body of Christ.  The judgement of God is hope, both because it is justice and because it is grace.  If it were merely grace, making all earthly things cease to matter, God would still owe us an answer to the question about justice—the crucial question that we ask of history and of God.  If it were merely justice, in the end it could bring only fear to us all.  The incarnation of God in Christ has so closely linked the two together—judgement and grace—that justice is firmly established:  we all work out our salvation ‘with fear and trembling’ (Phil. 2:12).  Nevertheless grace allows us all to hope, and to go trustfully to meet the Judge whom we know as our ‘advocate,’ or parakletos (I Jn. 2:1).      [Spe Salvi, n. 47]