Limbo

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Limbo is a theological speculation previously held by the Roman Catholic Church, but now almost completely discarded. The word refers to a place in the hereafter which is neither Heaven nor Hell. Souls of children who died without receiving the sacrament of Baptism and before the age of accountability (old enough to know right from wrong, usually thought to be about age six) were said to go to Limbo. The thinking was that God would not be so merciless as to sentence such persons to an eternity of Hell, but that he is also just, meaning such that those still in "Original Sin"--the inherited failing of Adam and Eve which Christian Baptism remedies--cannot merit Heaven.

Limbo is not part of standard Christian doctrine, and in particular should not be confused with Purgatory, a place where souls undergo a finite period of purification before entering Heaven, under the certainty that they will eventually be in Heaven. Limbo, by contrast, is not a place of torment.

While Limbo is associated with Roman Catholicism, it was never an official teaching. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI officially stated that the belief was "an unduly restrictive view of salvation," taking a noncommittal stance on Limbo's existence.[1]

Limbo does appear in Dante's Divine Comedy, where it is home to two main groups: virtuous people who were not Christian, and babies who died before they could be baptised. Technically it is the first circle of Hell, although no punishment is carried out: those there were thought to be happy in a natural sense but unable to share in the ultimate happiness of knowing God in Heaven.

References

  1. Catholic News Service, April 20, 2007, http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0702216.htm
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