Questo articolo è disponibile anche in: Italian English


Dear Father Angelo Bellon,

isn’t it true that the suffrages of reparation, made by living people, can bring benefit up to some extent for the souls in purgatory who have committed grave sins (although not mortal of course), as justice demands a personal atonement for certain grave sins?

Thank you from my heart, with my best regards

The priest’s answer


1. it is not easy to answer the question you asked me.

The Sacred Scripture clearly highlights that the suffrages of the living people can help the souls in Purgatory.

The books of the Maccabees preciously attest: “He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view;

for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death.

But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought” (2Mac 12:43-45).

2. At the same time, we also understand that the suffrages made by others cannot replace the purification of the soul, or rather, the purification of love.

The purification of love can only be a personal act.

3. Hence, it is understood that suffrages help, but do not replace.

In this sense, the Council of Trent instructed “that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls there detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar” (ref. DS 1820).

4. Rather than speaking of demands for justice, in my opinion, it is more appropriate to speak of the need of purification, indeed, of the purification of love.

5. Finally, I shall clarify two issues about what you wrote.

The first concerns these words: “the souls in purgatory who have committed grave sins (although not mortal of course)”

Now, according to the Magisterium of the Church, grave sins are identified as the mortal ones.

The Church makes no distinction, as John Paul II affirmed in Reconciliatio et Paenitentia:

“During the synod assembly some fathers proposed a threefold distinction of sins, classifying them as venial, grave and mortal.

This threefold distinction might illustrate the fact that there is a scale of seriousness among grave sins. But, it still remains true that the essential and decisive distinction is between sin which destroys charity and sin which does not kill the supernatural life:

There is no middle way between life and death” (RP 17).

“Hence, in the church’s doctrine and pastoral action, grave sin is in practice identified with mortal sin” (RP 17).

6. The second clarification: in Purgatory, one is purified from forgiven mortal sins too, since disordered inclinations can remain in the subject even after confession.

In fact, we read in the Revelation that “nothing unclean will enter” the heavenly Jerusalem (ref. Rev 21:27).

I wish you every good and I bless you.

Father Angelo