Image of a fiery purgatory by Ludovico Carracci

In Catholic theology, purgatory (Latin: Purgatorium, via Anglo-Norman and Old French)[1] is an intermediate state after physical death in which some of those ultimately destined for heaven must first "undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven," holding that "certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come."[2] And that entrance into Heaven requires the "remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven," for which indulgences may be given which remove "either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin," such as an "unhealthy attachment" to sin.[3] Only those who die in the state of grace but have not yet fulfilled the temporal punishment due to their sin can be in purgatory, and therefore, no one in purgatory will remain forever in that state nor go to hell. The notion of purgatory is associated particularly with the Latin Church (in the Eastern Catholic churches it is a doctrine, though it is not often called purgatory, but the final purification or the final theosis).

Although denying the existence of purgatory as formulated in Roman Catholic doctrine,[4] the Anglican and Methodist traditions along with Eastern Orthodoxy, affirm the existence of an intermediate state, Hades, and thus pray for the dead,[5][6][7] 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.[8] 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.[9]

The word purgatory has come to refer also to a wide range of historical and modern conceptions of postmortem suffering short of everlasting damnation[10] and is used, in a non-specific sense, to mean a condition or state of suffering or torment, especially one that is temporary.[11]

History of the belief

Image of a non-fiery purgatory (Gustave Doré: illustration for Dante's Purgatorio, Canto 24).
Our Lady of Mount Carmel with angels and souls in purgatory. Baroque sculpture from Beniajan, Spain.
Altarpiece of the souls in purgatory. Church of the Immaculate Conception (Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain).
Image of a fiery purgatory in the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry.

While use of the word "purgatory" (in Latin purgatorium) as a noun appeared perhaps only between 1160 and 1180, giving rise to the idea of purgatory as a place[12] (what Jacques Le Goff called the "birth" of purgatory),[13] the Roman Catholic tradition of purgatory as a transitional condition has a history that dates back, even before Jesus Christ, to the worldwide practice of caring for the dead and praying for them and to the belief, found also in Judaism,[14] which is considered the precursor of Christianity, that prayer for the dead contributed to their afterlife purification. The same practice appears in other traditions, such as the medieval Chinese Buddhist practice of making offerings on behalf of the dead, who are said to suffer numerous trials.[10] Roman Catholic belief in after-life purification is based on the practice of praying for the dead, which is mentioned in 2 Maccabees 12:42-44, what the Roman Catholic Church has declared to be part of Sacred Scripture,[15][16] and which, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, was adopted by Christians from the beginning,[17] a practice that presupposes that the dead are thereby assisted between death and their entry into their final abode.[10]

Shortly before becoming a Roman Catholic,[18] the English scholar John Henry Newman argued that the essence of the doctrine is locatable in ancient tradition, and that the core consistency of such beliefs is evidence that Christianity was "originally given to us from heaven".[19] Roman Catholics consider the teaching on purgatory, but not the imaginative accretions, to be part of the faith derived from the revelation of Jesus Christ that was preached by the Apostles. Of the early Church Fathers, Origen says that "He who comes to be saved, comes to be saved through [a] fire" that burns away sins and worldliness like lead, leaving behind only pure gold.[20] St. Ambrose of Milan speaks of a kind of "baptism of fire" which is located at the entrance to Heaven, and through which all must pass, at the end of the world.[21] Pope St. Gregory the Great says that the belief in purgatory is "established" (constat) and "to be believed" (credendum), insisting, however, that the purgatorial fire can only purify away minor transgressions, not "iron, bronze, or lead" or other "hardened" (duriora) sins.[22] By this he meant that attachments to sin, habits of sin, and even venial sins could be removed in purgatory, but not mortal sin, which, according to Catholic doctrine, causes eternal damnation. Over the centuries, theologians and other Christians then developed the doctrine regarding purgatory, leading to the definition of the formal doctrine (as distinct from the legendary descriptions found in poetic literature) at the First Council of Lyon (1245), the Second Council of Lyon (1274), the Council of Florence (1438–1445), and the Council of Trent (1545–63).[10][23]

Other Languages
Alemannisch: Fegefeuer
العربية: المطهر
asturianu: Purgatoriu
azərbaycanca: Araf
български: Чистилище
català: Purgatori
čeština: Očistec
Cymraeg: Purdan
Deutsch: Fegefeuer
Ελληνικά: Καθαρτήριο
español: Purgatorio
Esperanto: Purgatorio
euskara: Purgatorio
français: Purgatoire
Gaeilge: Purgadóir
galego: Purgatorio
հայերեն: Քավարան
hrvatski: Čistilište
Bahasa Indonesia: Purgatorium
italiano: Purgatorio
עברית: כור המצרף
Kiswahili: Toharani
Latina: Purgatorium
latviešu: Šķīstītava
lietuvių: Skaistykla
Limburgs: Vagevuur
magyar: Purgatórium
Nederlands: Vagevuur
日本語: 煉獄
Napulitano: Priatorio
norsk nynorsk: Skjærselden
occitan: Purgatòri
polski: Czyściec
português: Purgatório
română: Purgatoriu
русский: Чистилище
shqip: Purgatori
Simple English: Purgatory
slovenčina: Očistec
slovenščina: Vice
српски / srpski: Чистилиште
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Čistilište
suomi: Kiirastuli
svenska: Skärselden
Tagalog: Purgatoryo
Türkçe: Araf
українська: Чистилище
Winaray: Purgatoryo
中文: 炼狱