If There Were No Purgatory, We Would Have to Invent It

From Peter Seewald’s excellent book-length interview with then Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, now the Supreme Pontiff Emeritus Benedict XVI:

I would go so far as to say that if there was no purgatory, then we would have to invent it, for who would dare say of himself that he was able to stand directly before God. And yet we don’t want to be, to use an image from Scripture, “a pot that turned out wrong”, that has to be thrown away; we want to be able to be put right. Purgatory basically means that God can put the pieces back together again. That he can cleanse us in such a way that we are able to be with him and can stand there in the fullness of life. (page 130)

Later, concerning prayer for the dead, he adds:

There is a fundamental urge in man to do something more for the dead and to perform additional acts of love, above all if he realizes that he still owes them something. We believe that it must be possible, beyond this great threshold [of death], to send something after them, so to speak, to make a gesture. But if heaven and hell are all there is, that becomes meaningless. In that sense, implicit in prayer for the dead is a profound awareness that we can still do something for them. And I think that it is just this very human aspect that shows what is meant by purgatory. Those who have died are still in a state in which our prayers can be of help to them. (page 131)

This excellent book is available on Amazon (click here for the Kindle version); the above is just one of many topics on the faith and the world today that Ratzinger addresses simply and profoundly.

An old catechetical illustration about praying for the souls in purgatory.

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