01/12/2011, 00.00
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Pope: Purgatory, the "interior" fire that purifies and makes it possible to draw close to God

During the general audience, Benedict XVI introduces the figure of Saint Catherine of Genoa, well known for her Treatise on Purgatory. Her life an example, especially for women "who give a vital contribution to society and the Church with their valuable work, enriched by their sensitivity and attention to the poorest and most needy."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Purgatory as a place not of external torments, but as an inner fire, urifying the soul in preparation for full communion with God.  Conscious of God’s infinite love and justice, the soul is pained by its inadequate response, even as the divine love purifies it from the remnants of sin." This "the fire that purifies" is the vision of St. Catherine of Genoa, the wife of the late Middle Ages to whom Benedict XVI dedicated his general audience today.

The Pope spoke of the saint to the 8 thousand people present Wednesday. Born in 1447 in Genoa the last of five children, Catherine Fieschi lost her father, James, in infancy. Her mother, Francesca Negro, gave her a Christian education. In 1463 she was married to Giuliano Adorno, "a man who, after various military and commercial experiences in the Middle East had come home to get married." Married life was not easy, he gambled she had a busy court life. "After 10 years there was a profound sense of emptiness and bitterness in her heart."

In 1473 she had a "singular experience": visiting the church of St. Benedict and the nearby monastery of Our Lady of Grace she received, she writes, "a wound to the heart with a vision of her misery and defects and the goodness of God, so that she almost fainted. From this experience came the decision that was to change her life: 'No more world, no longer sins'. " She fled confession, returned to her home and cried for a long time. It was a "spiritual experience of God's love towards her sinful self." A few days later she returned to the priest "to make a good confession."

"It started here that life of purification which , for a long time, made her feel a constant pain for sins committed and pushed her to impose penances and sacrifices on herself to show God her love." In her "Life" it is written that "her soul was inwardly guided and tamed only by the sweet love of God, who gave her everything she needed."

She moved to the hospital in Pammatone, becoming its director and leader. "A life fully active despite the depth of her inner life." And " around her a group of followers, disciples and collaborators grew, fascinated by her life of faith and charity". Even her husband was won over enough to leave the life he led and become a Franciscan tertiary and move himself to the hospital. Catherine died September 15, 1510.

From conversion to death there were other extraordinary events, but "two elements characterize her entire life: her mystical experience, namely her profound union with God, experienced as a spousal union, and, her care for the sick, the hospital organization, service to others, especially the most needy and neglected. These two poles of God and neighbour, completely filled her life, spent almost entirely within the walls of the hospital. " Because "the more we love God and are constant in prayer, the more we will truly love those around us, because we'll be able to see every person in the face of the Lord, who loves without limits and distinction." This is what characterizes Catherine’s thoughts on Purgatory. In her Treatise on purgatory and Dialogue between the soul and the body there are no "specific revelations about purgatory or the souls who are being purified." However, "the way used to describe it is original compared to the period. The first part concerns the original place of purification of souls. At the time it was mainly portrayed by the use of images related to a place" in the “bowels of the earth. " For Catherine, however, purgatory "it is not an external fire, rather an internal one”.

“The soul comes to God, still tied to the wishes and the punishment resulting from sin, and this makes it impossible to enjoy the beatific vision of God." "The soul is aware of the immense love and perfect justice of God and, therefore, suffers for failing to respond properly to such love and perfection" and God’s love purifies it”. The Saints, said Benedict XVI, in their experience of union with God, "reach so deep a knowledge of the divine mysteries, in which love and knowledge permeate them to be of help to theologians in their efforts to study the mysteries of faith ".

Catherine concludes the Pope "teaches us that the more we love God and enter into intimacy with Him in prayer, the more He makes Himself known and tranforms our hearts with his love" writing on Purgatory, she invites us to pray for the faithful departed. A" humble, faithful and generous" woman, who served in the hospital for her entire life " a shining example of charity for all and special encouragement to women who make a crucial contribution to society and the Church in their valuable work, enriched by their sensitivity and attention to the poorest and most needy. "
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