Is purgatory a physical place?
Catholic Answers Senior Apologist Jimmy Akin explains what the Catholic Church teaches about purgatory.
Jimmy was born in Texas and raised in Arkansas. He grew up nominally Protestant but at age 20 experienced a profound conversion to Christ. Planning on becoming a Protestant pastor or seminary professor, he started an intensive study of the Bible, but the more he immersed himself in Scripture the more he found to support the Catholic faith. Eventually, he was compelled in conscience to enter the Catholic Church, which he did in 1992.
His conversion story, “A Triumph and a Tragedy,” is published in Surprised by Truth. Jimmy is a Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a regular contributor to This Rock magazine, a weekly guest on “Catholic Answers Live,” and the author of several titles including Mass Confusion: The Do’s and Don’ts of Catholic Worship and The Salvation Controversy.
Catholic Answers is an apostolate dedicated to serving Christ by bringing the fullness of Catholic truth to the world. We help good Catholics become better Catholics, bring former Catholics “home,” and lead non-Catholics into the fullness of the faith.
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What is purgatory? Purgatory is the state of those who die in God’s friendship, assured of their eternal salvation, but who still have need of purification to enter the happiness of heaven (CCC: 1030-1031, 1054).
How can we help the souls being purified in purgatory? Because of the communion of saints, the faithful who are still pilgrims on earth are able to help the souls in purgatory by offering prayers in suffrage for them, especially the Eucharistic sacrifice. They also help them by almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance (CCC: 1032).
In what does hell consist? Hell consists in the eternal damnation of those who die in mortal sin through their own free choice. The principal suffering of hell is eternal separation from God in whom alone we can have the life and happiness for which we were created and for which we long Christ proclaimed this reality with the words, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41; CCC: 1033-1035, 1056-1057).