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Belief in concept of Limbo declines

The 16th century painting Christ In Limbo by Hieronymus Bosch

Belief in the Catholic concept of 'Limbo' has declined across Ireland in recent decades, new research shows.

A concept that doesn't feature in the Bible, Limbo is said to be the border place between heaven and hell, where those souls who died without being baptised ended up.

Souls in Limbo were not condemned to punishment but were deprived of eternal happiness with God in heaven.

However, a study led by Professor Liam Kennedy from Queen's University's Institute for Irish Studies at Queen’s University has found that belief in the concept is waning.

Carried out in association with the Irish Countrywomen’s Association, the research found that fewer people were accepting of myths peddled by the Church and more questioning of the 'fire and brimstone' theology that previous generations adhered to.

"“Catholics in Ireland, from the 1960s onwards, turned their backs on a religious belief they found not credible or even cruel and the institutional church itself placed less and less emphasis on the ‘doctrine’ of Limbo," Prof Kennedy said.

"A fear of Limbo drove parents to have their new-born child baptised as soon as was practicable – otherwise, the infant risked losing eternal happiness and going into a void called Limbo."

The Queen's academic said he was in little doubt that mothers who had miscarriages or still-births suffered mental anguish as a result of the death of an unbaptised foetus or still-birth.

"Heaven was closed to the unbaptised, as indeed was consecrated Church ground," he said.

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