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Was Pope Francis Talking About Purgatory? What is Purgatory?


I have a reason for addressing this question right now.  It specifically deals with the defense many die-hard Pope defenders are giving for his recent words that seem to be saying that atheists can still go to heaven.  They claim, though the Pope never made such a claim, that the Pope was referencing ‘purgatory’ when he said those explosive words.  Therefore, to understand the issue when talking to Catholics, you must understand the differences between their bible and our bible and WHY they are different.

‘Purgatory’, for those who don’t know, is a place between heaven and earth- a soul must go there before they go to heaven.  In order to go out, they need the prayers of family members & friends.  Most especially, they need Mary or the saints to talk to God about them and say that they do deserve heaven.   The reason non-Catholics have never heard of Purgatory is because the Catholic bible includes writings called the Apocrypha- which include books like the Maccabees.  It is within these books and writings that the concept of ‘purgatory’, among others, lay.  After the Protestant Reformation began, the Catholic Church changed the official cannon that had been set for over a thousand years to include these writings.  My belief is that they did this because of the Protestant outcry over ‘indulgences’.  As the Catholic church began to become impoverished, they decided to sell ‘indulgences’ which would provide a speedy, one way ticket out of Purgatory and straight to heaven.  As Luther and the Movement was questioning this tactic, the Church changed the bible to defend Purgatory and ‘indulgences’ as the inspired Word of God.  Ironically, Pope Francis has brought this concept of ‘indulgences’ to the modern era by offering time off from Purgatory as a reward to those willing to ‘like’ the pope on social media.

When Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic Church, he took the original form of the bible (which we have today) from the Catholic Church and moved forward.  It was after this break that the Catholic church decided to add the Apocrypha to the bible.  Let us examine the reasons Protestants don’t include the Apocrypha in our bibles.  While these writings are of historical value, they themselves never claim to be inspired by God. Here are the reasons we do not include a body of books, letters and writings called the ‘Apocrypha’ in normal bibles:

1) The Roman Catholic Church did not officially canonize the Apocrypha until the Council of Trent (1546 AD). This was in part because the Apocrypha contained material which supported certain Catholic doctrines, such as purgatory, praying for the dead, and the treasury of merit.
2) Not one of them is in the Hebrew language, which was alone used by the inspired historians and poets of the Old Testament.
3) Not one of the writers lays any claim to inspiration.
4) These books were never acknowledged as sacred Scriptures by the Jewish Church, and therefore were never sanctioned by our Lord.
5) They were not allowed a place among the sacred books, during the first four centuries of the Christian Church.
6) They contain fabulous statements, and statements which contradict not only the canonical Scriptures, but themselves; as when, in the two Books of Maccabees, Antiochus Epiphanes is made to die three different deaths in as many different places.
7) The Apocrypha inculcates doctrines at variance with the Bible, such as prayers for the dead and sinless perfection.

” And the day following Judas came with his company, to take away the bodies of them that were slain, and to bury them with their kinsmen, in the sepulchers of their fathers. And they found under the coats of the slain some of the donaries of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbiddeth to the Jews: so that all plainly saw, that for this cause they were slain. Then they all blessed the just judgment of the Lord, who had discovered the things that were hidden. And so betaking themselves to prayers, they besought him, that the sin which had been committed might be forgotten. But the most valiant Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves from sin, forasmuch as they saw before their eyes what had happened, because of the sins of those that were slain. And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachmas of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection, (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead,) And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins. (2 Maccabees 12:39-46) ”

The apocrypha contains offensive materials unbecoming of God’s authorship.

Ecclesiasticus 25:19 Any iniquity is insignificant compared to a wife’s iniquity.

Ecclesiasticus 25:24 From a woman sin had its beginning. Because of her we all die.

Ecclesiasticus 22:3 It is a disgrace to be the father of an undisciplined, and the birth of a daughter is a loss.

9) It teaches immoral practices, such as lying, suicide, assassination and magical incantation.
10) The apocryphal books themselves make reference to what we call the Silent 400 years, where there was no prophets of God to write inspired materials.

“And they laid up the stones in the mountain of the temple in a convenient place, till there should come a prophet, and give answer concerning them. (1 Maccabees 4:46)

And there was a great tribulation in Israel, such as was not since the day, that there was no prophet seen in Israel. (1 Maccabees 9:27)

And that the Jews, and their priests, had consented that he should be their prince, and high priest for ever, till there should arise a faithful prophet. (1 Maccabees 14:41) ”

11) Josephus rejected the apocryphal books as inspired and this reflected Jewish thought at the time of Jesus

“From Artexerxes to our own time the complete history has been written but has not been deemed worthy of equal credit with the earlier records because of the failure of the exact succession of the prophets.” … “We have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another, but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine…”(Flavius Josephus, Against Apion 1:8)

12) The Manual of Discipline in the Dead Sea Scrolls rejected the apocrypha as inspired.
The Council of Jamnia held the same view rejected the apocrypha as inspired.

13) They debated the canonicity of a few books (e.g., Ecclesiastes), but they changed nothing and never proclaimed themselves to be authoritative determiners of the Old Testament canon. “The books which they decided to acknowledge as canonical were already generally accepted, although questions had been raised about them. Those which they refused to admit had never been included. They did not expel from the canon any book which had previously been admitted. ‘The Council of Jamnia was the confirming of public opinion, not the forming of it.'” (F. F. Bruce, The Books and Parchments [Old Tappan, NJ.: Fleming H. Revell, 1963], p. 98])

14) Although it was occasionally quoted in early church writings, it was nowhere accepted in a canon. Melito (AD 170) and Origen rejected the Apocrypha, (Eccl. Hist. VI. 25, Eusebius) as does the Muratorian Canon.
15) Jerome vigorously resisted including the Apocrypha in his Latin Vulgate Version (400 AD), but was overruled. As a result, the standard Roman Catholic Bible throughout the medieval period contained it. Thus, it gradually came to be revered by the average clergyman. Still, many medieval Catholic scholars realized that it was not inspired.
16) The terms “protocanonical” and “deuterocanonical” are used by Catholics to signify respectively those books of Scripture that were received by the entire Church from the beginning as inspired, and those whose inspiration came to be recognized later, after the matter had been disputed by certain Fathers and local churches.
17) Pope Damasus (366-384) authorized Jerome to translate the Latin Vulgate. The Council of Carthage declared this translation as “the infallible and authentic Bible.” Jerome was the first to describe the extra 7 Old Testament books as the “Apocrypha” (doubtful authenticity). Needless to say, Jerome’s Latin Vulgate did not include the Apocrypha.
18) Cyril (born about A.D. 315) – “Read the divine Scriptures – namely, the 22 books of the Old Testament which the 72 interpreters translated” (the Septuagint)
19) The apocrypha wasn’t included at first in the Septuagint, but was appended by the Alexandrian Jews, and was not listed in any of the catalogues of the inspired books till the 4th century
20) Hilary (bishop of Poictiers, 350 A.D.) rejected the apocrypha (Prologue to the Psalms, Sec. 15)
21) Epiphanius (the great opposer of heresy, 360 A.D.) rejected them all. Referring to Wisdom of Solomon & book of Jesus Sirach, he said “These indeed are useful books & profitable, but they are not placed in the number of the canonical.”


  1. I find it amusing how much people can get worked up over beliefs that cannot be proven to be correct. There is no way to verify that Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, or Limbo exist or have ever existed. It’s not as if Leonard Nimoy is going to be interviewed with Winston Churchill on CNN today to describe what the afterlife is like. Once people are dead, they tend to be quite silent.

    Believe what you want, but I don’t see the point in getting upset over something that can never be proven one way or another.

    • Sam, the bible has been proven in more ways than I can bother to count. If the predictions in the bible were in any kind of horoscope or from some kind of weird satanic book, the entire world would fall on its collective knees in worship. The predictions of the bible have almost all come to pass. And the ones predicted for our near future are coming to pass as we speak. There is so much logical and mathematical and statistical proof for God that I can safely say that it requires a heck of a lot more faith to believe this universe happened by accident than by an Intelligent Being who made it. Only those who have either low or mediocre minds can find that explanation satisfactory at all. And those with genius IQs who can even look me in the eye and say they find it credible are those who will absolutely walk out of the room rather than have a logical discussion on the matter. Those people will only discuss the matter if you are willing to stay on their comfort grounds. If you are willing to talk about String Theory or Dark Matter or whatever fanciful new theory THEY LITERALLY JUST MADE UP!! It doesn’t even have to make sense! Once you force them off their familiar territory and start with simple reasoning, simple deductive reasoning, they will stand up and leave the room. Usually cursing under their breath. They are cowards, one and all. That is my experience with the genius mentality who refuses to see the giant, smelly, hairy, pooping elephant in the room which is Intelligent Design. They would put cordons around it and try to escort us all around the messy beast and talk very loudly as it bellows, pretending it isn’t making all that noise and farting. And we, all staring at the beast are wondering if we are seeing things, wiping our eyes and wondering why the smart fellow doesn’t seem to see it. But he appears not to, so the less secure individuals in the group begin to also ignore the thing because, of course, they too want to look intelligent. Eventually, most of the party is acting like the beast isn’t messing with the velvet cording, hasn’t pooped on most of the shoes and doesn’t stink to high heaven. The only ones to actually say a word are the other, more honest genius and a child in the room that yell, “I say! Look at that smelly Beast!”

      Sam, you can stop being one of those in the party who wishes to look intelligent. God is EVIDENT in nature. A child can see it. Intelligent design is the NORM in our everyday experience. Chaos NEVER leads to order. Ever. Why would we believe it ever would?

    • I see that facts bother you. I have given you the truth and you just turn around and call me a liar? why? Are you afraid of what you will find? It always stinks to find out something you loved might just be evil. I know. But you are being led by a bad man. Not every pope was bad. But this one is. He is not a god. He is nowhere more ‘good’ than you. He is corruptible. Which is exactly why Christ ordered us to never create a priesthood again.

  2. I don’t know what the Pope was referring to, but it’s my belief that God will not turn anyone away, who accepts, his son, Jesus, and tries to turn their life around in the direction which God approves. God loves us all, but he doesn’t approve of some things we do. According to the Bible, the only sin that is unforgivable is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which means complete denial of allowing for the Holy Spirit, or Holy Ghost, as some refer to him, to guide you, through your conscience, to do God’s will, the total hardening of your heart against God. At least, that’s my interpretation. Atheist can change, anyone can change, it’s a choice to serve God, or to serve God’s adversary, Satan. By ignoring to serve God, you, automatically, choose Satan, whether you believe in him or not. As for Purgatory, I don’t know if it exist or not, but guess we’ll find out one day. It may be what Jesus called the Jailer, who delivers sinners to prison.

    • True, Ladybug. But that is exactly the issue. The pope was speaking of atheists going to heaven- not atheists who changed into believers. Because the moment they became believers, they would no longer be atheist. So no argument can be made that the pope was talking about atheists that had changed their minds, repented, and accepted Christ as their savior! Only in some bizarre notion of Purgatory would that be possible. And believe me, anyone immortal soul who understood the truth of satan and Christ would say, “Gee, now that I know that Satan and Christ are very, very real, I choose to burn in a lake of fire, have my flesh whipped off my bones and gee, yeah, add some salt to my wounds. I would love to do some great gnashing of my teeth for eternity!” Now, would they? So it is utter nonsense that one can go to Purgatory, learn the truth and somehow get CREDIT from God because you chose package number one: an eternity in Heaven living the best life possible, laughing your head off in joy in perfect, eternal bodies! No amount of logic can be applied to make it so.

      • Susan,
        I appreciate your zeal and in-your face faith. You’re really close. You’ll see what I mean in a minute. I am Catholic. I was born and raised Baptist. I left the Baptist faith and Protestant faith all together when the Holy Spirit moved me. I’ve read many of your posts on here and applaud your fervor. You’re intelligent and insightful; however, I fear your lacking in wisdom. Your last comment on the above post reads, “No amount of logic can be applied to make it so.” To assume to human logic has any place in God’s dealings with nature, man or eternity is too easy. Logic has no place in God’s plan. Our Pope, who you’ve done a great job damning, that’s OK though, Saul had a hard ride before he became Paul, is treating the world as it is, a triage. Pope Francis said the world is dying, and now isn’t the time to point fingers saying, “you’re gay, you’re atheist or you’re wrong…we’re right.” Now is the time in the history of mankind to hold the sick and hurting, to heal their wounds, to wrap them in our arms and say, “you’re loved.” When the bleeding stops, that’s when we, as a church can point out the plan of salvation and perfect peace to those healing and then trusting of their healers. The Pope is a fine man with more child-like wisdom than many Popes have had. Most of what I’ve read on here about Catholics is wrong, and what is right is misunderstood. I could go on and on, but that would be easier one topic at a time. When I said you’re really close, I meant you have what it takes to be a real warrior for the God’s church, the Catholic Church. Not that God can’t be found and salvation can’t be achieved in any Christian church, that’s not what I’m saying, I’m saying you, with your obvious passion for truth are just around the corner like I was. I turned that corner and came face to face with the living God. I don’t doubt your salvation and love for the Lord; however, your method is feeding some angry people, thus being counterproductive. Our Pope is saying of Athiests, the most humble thing he can say, that God is filled with mercy, and it isn’t our place to say what will ensue between even one soul when he or she comes face to face with God. I’ll pray for you dear, and not because I think your some lost soul. I don’t think that. I’ll pray for you because I believe you’re close. You’re very close, and when you find the church and the Eucharist, you’ll understand so much more.
        Peace in Christ

      • Gregg. You seem to believe that somehow becoming ‘Catholic’ is ‘getting there.’ As in, ‘finally seeing the TRUE light’. That is utter nonsense. Our salvation comes not from ANY church, Catholic or not. Getting ‘there’ must mean ‘attaining salvation through Jesus Christ to live in eternity with God’. And let me tell you, there was no Catholic Church for the thief that hung on the cross next to Jesus. His simple faith in Jesus’ promise was all that was required. No assembly, no priesthood, no building and no denomination will save you. ONLY a personal, one on one, relationship with Christ will do that. Church is for believers to learn, rest, edify, teach, and basically to ‘equip the saints’. Nothing more. We go there for fellowship and to fuel up for our next mission OUT into the world to make believers of men. To tell the good news of Jesus Christ. Even if only two or more are gathered, Jesus is there- that is church. But even that does not save anyone there. Only asking Jesus Christ, on our own, can bring redemption & salvation.

        So your claims that being a Catholic is to ‘get there’ or ‘turn the corner’ is not biblical. I feel that you have found a place that makes you feel religious. Or even uplifted. But you have missed the entire method to being saved. It’s just between you and Christ. That is all. And this could happen no matter where on earth you are. Like the thief on the cross. Simple. Don’t complicate what was meant to be simple. Only satan does that.

  3. It’s a long journey in what people believe in. There are numerous variations and other defining items associated. I am Catholic but have beliefs that run parallel, as I use Haley’s Bible Handbook which indicates there was friction regarding the Roman Catholic Church. Haley was a Methodist minister. I found other paths such as Lutheran very close to the Roman Catholic Church. I had attended both Presbyterian Church and the Reformed Church because they were churches that were friendly and Sunday Services were within traveling proximity. I also read Talmud, and consider that I am of Sicilian heritage. I am actually closer to a Templar. My point being, it’s not a matter of your association with a religion that matters, it’s your association with God, that counts.
    Considering what I read about your ordeals at USMA West Point, it is my personal opinion, that you need not concern yourself with gray areas of Purgatory. There are no questions about it.
    If you enjoy the Saint Joseph Bible of the Roman Catholic Church, let it comfort you. Keep in mind that a Holy Bible, whichever version you like, is only an inanimate object like a fighter jet sitting on a tarmac. You must get into the Holy Bible, as a trained and skillful pilot gets into the jet, and then suddenly it comes to life and is capable of doing magnificent things. It is also proof that God exists, because a person does not wave “hello” to the automobile driven down the road as it passes, they wave at the driver. Maybe a person is six feet tall and weighs 150 pounds. All of a sudden, they die. Something changes. They are still six feet tall and weigh 150 pounds, but the driver or operator is not there. Same with the jet. Same with the Holy Bible. Your spirit or soul operates your body and will know the voice of the Creator as you real the Owners Manual which is the Holy Bible. That is when the Wisdom is given to you. The Holy Bible will start revealing different facts and wonderful things from its text to you. Get comfortable reading and going in depth with the text, and from me, to you, do not worry or be concerned about Purgatory. You are, of the Source, and to the Source, you, shall, return.

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