Thursday, June 3, 2010


Purgatory is the condition or process of purification or temporary punishment in which the souls of those who die in a state of grace are made ready for Heaven. This is an idea that has ancient roots and is well-attested in early Christian literature, while the conception of purgatory as a geographically situated place is largely the creation of medieval Christian piety and imagination.

The notion of purgatory is associated particularly with the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church (in the Eastern sui juris churches or rites it is a doctrine, though often without using the name "Purgatory"); Anglo-Catholic Anglicans generally also hold to the belief. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, believed in an intermediate state between death and the final judgment and in the possibility of "continuing to grow in holiness there", but Methodism does not officially affirm his belief and denies the possibility of helping by prayer any who may be in that state. The Eastern Orthodox Churches believe in the possibility of a change of situation for the souls of the dead through the prayers of the living and the offering of the Divine Liturgy, and many Orthodox, especially among ascetics, hope and pray for a general apocatastasis. A similar belief in at least the possibility of a final salvation for all is held by Mormonism. Judaism also believes in the possibility of after-death purification and may even use the word "purgatory" to present its understanding of the meaning of Gehenna. However, the concept of soul "purification" may be explicitly denied in these other faith traditions.

The word "purgatory", derived through Anglo-Norman and Old French from the Latin word purgatorium. has come to refer also to a wide range of historical and modern conceptions of postmortem suffering short of everlasting damnation, and is used, in a non-specific sense, to mean any place or condition of suffering or torment, especially one that is temporary.

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