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Divine Mercy congress ends-- spiced by theological disagreement April 07, 2008

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna celebrated Mass in St. Peter's basilica on Sunday, April 6, to close the First World Apostolic Congress of Divine Mercy.

About 9,000 people had participated in the week-long event, which had opened on April 2, the feast of Divine Mercy and the 3rd anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II, who had established that feast in 2000. The congress was intended as the first step in a worldwide plan to encourage the Divine Mercy devotion, with congresses hoped for in each continent next year, each country in 2010, and each diocesan in 2011.

The conference was marked by a respectful theological disagreement between the Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Cardinal Schönborn. The Orthodox prelate, in his presentation, argued that God's mercy is so great that He does not condemn sinners to everlasting punishment. The Orthodox understanding of hell, Bishop Hilarion said, corresponds roughly to the Catholic notion of purgatory. Cardinal Schönborn politely disagreed, noting that the idea expressed by Bishop Hilarion "is not a doctrine of the Church." While hell is a reality, he said, it is God's will for all men to be saved, and all Christians should pray "that no one will be lost."

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