Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI: God's Justice--Heaven, Hell, Purgatory

Fr Pietro Riggi, a Salesian from Don Bosco Boys' Town: ... My question is: on 25 March 2007, you spoke extemporaneously complaining how seldom the "last things" are mentioned today. In fact, in the catechisms of the Italian Bishops' Conference used for teaching our faith to children for confession, Communion and confirmation, it seems to me that certain truths of the faith have been omitted. Hell is never mentioned, nor Purgatory, Heaven only once, sin only once and then only original sin. In lacking these essential parts of our belief does it not seem to you that the whole system of logic which leads one to see Christ's Redemption has crumbled? By the absence of any mention of sin, by not speaking of Hell, even Christ's Redemption seems diminished. Do you not think that this has encouraged a loss of the sense of sin, hence, of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and even of the saving, sacramental figure of the priest himself, who has the power to absolve and celebrate in Christ's name? Today, unfortunately, when the Gospel speaks of Hell we priests circumvent even the Gospel. Hell is not mentioned. Or we are unable to talk about Heaven. We cannot speak of eternal life. We risk giving faith a purely horizontal dimension or one where the horizontal is too detached from the vertical. And this unfortunately occurs in catechesis for children, quite apart from the initiatives of parish priests; it lacks a basic structure....

Pope Benedict XVI: You correctly spoke of the fundamental themes of the faith which unfortunately rarely appear in our preaching. In the Encyclical Spe Salvi I wanted to speak precisely about the Last Judgement, judgement in general, and in this context also about Purgatory, Hell and Heaven... When one does not know the judgement of God one does not know the possibility of Hell, of the radical and definitive failure of life, one does not know the possibility of and need for purification...

...In the Encyclical I tried to show that it is God's Last Judgement that guarantees justice. We all want a just world. Yet we cannot atone for all the destruction of the past, all the people unjustly tortured and killed. God alone can create justice, which must be justice for all, even for the dead, and as the great Marxist Adorno said, only the resurrection of the body, which he claimed as unreal, would be able to create justice. We believe in this resurrection of the body in which not all will be equal. Today people have become used to thinking: what is sin? God is great, he knows us, so sin does not count; in the end God will be kind to us all. It is a beautiful hope. But both justice and true guilt exist. Those who have destroyed man and the earth cannot suddenly sit down at God's table together with their victims. God creates justice. We must keep this in mind. Therefore, I felt it was important to write this text also about Purgatory, which for me is an obvious truth, so evident and also so necessary and comforting that it could not be absent. I tried to say: perhaps those who have destroyed themselves in this way, who are for ever unredeemable, who no longer possess any elements on which God's love can rest, who no longer have a minimal capacity for loving, may not be so numerous. This would be Hell. On the other hand, those who are so pure that they can enter immediately into God's communion are undoubtedly few - or at any rate not many. A great many of us hope that there is something in us that can be saved, that there may be in us a final desire to serve God and serve human beings, to live in accordance with God. Yet there are so very many wounds, there is so much filth. We need to be prepared, to be purified. This is our hope: even with so much dirt in our souls, in the end the Lord will give us the possibility, he will wash us at last with his goodness that comes from his Cross. In this way he makes us capable of being for him in eternity. And thus Heaven is hope, it is justice brought about at last. He also gives us criteria by which to live, so that this time may be in some way paradise, a first gleam of paradise. Where people live according to these criteria a hint of paradise appears in the world and is visible. It also seems to me to be a demonstration of the truth of faith, of the need to follow the road of the Commandments, of which we must speak further. These really are road signs on our way and show us how to live well, how to choose life. Therefore, we must also speak of sin and of the sacrament of forgiveness and reconciliation. A sincere person knows that he is guilty, that he must start again, that he must be purified. And this is the marvellous reality which the Lord offers us: there is a chance of renewal, of being new. The Lord starts with us again and in this way we can also start again with the others in our life.



Hall of Blessings
Thursday, 7 February 2008

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