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Little purgatory museum in Rome.

Are readers of Catholic Insight aware that there is a purgatory museum in Rome? Church in the World didn't know this, but thanks to the website Aleteia we give you the following information based on an interview with Fr. Dominico Santangini, curator of the museum and parish priest of the Church of the Sacred Heart of Suffrage (31 Oct. 2014).

About 1894 or 1895 there existed, on the site of the present church and museum, a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary. A French priest, Fr. Jouet, a member of the Order of the Sacred Heart who was devoted to praying for the souls in Purgatory, would go from Piazza Navona to celebrate Mass at the chapel. One day there was a fire in the chapel and, when it had been extinguished, "the image of the suffering face of what appeared to be a soul in Purgatory was left behind." Fr. Jouet was thus inspired to build a church dedicated to the holy souls in Purgatory. With the help of family and friends, he commissioned the church. There was a financial shortfall, and so with the support of Pope Pius X Fr. Jouet travelled throughout Europe looking for money and for testimonies that bore evidence of visits from souls in Purgatory. He testified that the relics that he bore back to Rome were authentic; these became the beginnings of the Purgatory Museum.

Fr. Santangini says that the relics "bear witness to the many souls ... I think there are very many ... that have to be purified before reaching God. It's part of our faith. The Council of Trent defined that Hell and Heaven are absolute truths of the faith, and it taught that Purgatory is a truth of the faith proximo fidei. One has to be completely pure to be with God, so a man--even if he is good--always has some stain on his soul, and that is why Purgatory is needed. Purgatory is a state of absence from God, and we by our prayers, especially through the prayer of the Mass, since it is the prayer par excellence, can truly help bring many of these souls to heaven, who then become saints. They "return the favour" by praying for us."

The Council's decree on Purgatory instructs bishops to strive diligently so that the Church's doctrine on Purgatory may be believed by all the faithful. Fr. Santangini reminds us that "throughout the month of November one can obtain a plenary indulgence for the departed by visiting a Catholic church and saying an Our Father, a Hail Mary and the Creed while praying for the intentions of the Pope, and by going to Confession and Holy Communion. We can apply this plenary indulgence to one of the faithful departed, and if by chance this soul is already in heaven the Lord applies it to another soul."

"The relics in the Museum are signs that tell us that we need to believe in Purgatory, that this place of suffering exists, that so many souls pass through it, also that there are so many souls that are there and forgotten." Our prayers are never in vain and never forgotten. We are part of the Communion of Saints; if there is a soul in Purgatory that needs prayer, Our Lord will use our prayers for the one who is 'forgotten.'

Fr. Santangini speaks of one particular relic in the Museum. "The original charred image on the wall (from the fire) is the one I find most moving, because in it we see the suffering of a man who is almost without form, but who has a human face. It reveals the pain of someone who is suffering the absence of a person he loves--in this case, God. It is the sad face of someone who is in Purgatory ... The charred images we have in the Museum represent the fire that burns but purifies. Little by little it burns and purifies the souls who are in Purgatory. We see a physical manifestation of this fire, but for the souls in Purgatory it is interior. In the other life, the pain that the soul suffers is the absence of God. What hurts is that I can't be with God."

The Museum only takes up one large display case on a wall off the sacristy. One has to ask the caretaker to open the area. Each glassed display holds a different item (15 in total)--Scriptures, prayer book, a tabletop, an article of clothing--that bears the singed marks of the hands of souls in Purgatory.

For additional information, google Little Purgatory Museum Rome. The Chiesa del Sacro Cuore del Suffragio is not far from the Vatican, on a street that runs parallel to the Tiber, the Lungotevere.
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Title Annotation:ITALY
Publication:Catholic Insight
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Feb 1, 2015
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