Question: Are notorious sinners such as Osama bin Laden damned to hell?

Answer: The short answer is - we don't know. While the Church has definitively stated that the saints and the blesseds are in heaven with God forever, the Church has never definitely proclaimed anyone to be in hell - not even Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Christ. We must leave the final judgment of each soul to God.

In a general audience on Oct. 18, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the fate of Judas, which is a mystery. For instance, the Gospel does record that Judas "repented and brought back the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, 'I have sinned in betraying innocent blood'" (Mt 27: 3-4). The Pope states, "Even though [Judas] went to hang himself (cf. Mt 27: 5), it is not up to us to judge his gesture, substituting ourselves for the infinitely merciful and just God."

In the Diary of St. Faustina, the great apostle of Divine Mercy writes, "Only the soul that wants it will be damned, for God condemns no one" (1452). There is another encouraging Diary passage in which St. Faustina writes about one's last moment in life:

I often attend upon the dying and through entreaties obtain for them trust in God's mercy, and I implore God for an abundance of divine grace, which is always victorious. God's mercy sometimes touches the sinner at the last moment in a wondrous and mysterious way. Outwardly, it seems as if everything were lost, but it is not so. The soul, illumined by a ray of God's powerful final grace, turns to God in the last moment with such a power of love that, in an instant, it receives from God forgiveness of sin and punishment (1698).

So let's plead for God's mercy for sinners, especially unrepentant sinners who are dying.

Question: I hear that a Marian apparition in the United States has been approved. Can you tell me about it?

In 1859, Our Lady appeared three times to Adele Brise, a 27-year-old immigrant from Belgium. The apparitions occurred in rural northeast Wisconsin. Adele first saw the Blessed Mother on Sunday, Oct. 2. She described Mary as wearing bright, white garments and a yellow waist sash. She also had a crown of stars. Our Lady didn't say anything before she slowly disappeared.

On the following Sunday, Adele went to Mass. When she returned home, the apparition reappeared. This time, the apparition said to Adele, "I am the Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same. You have received Holy Communion this morning, and that is well. But you must do more. Make a general confession and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners. If they do not convert and do penance, my Son will be obliged to punish them."

Our Lady then told Adele to "gather the children of this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation. Teach them their catechism, how to [make] the sign of the cross, and how to approach the Sacraments. Go and fear nothing. I will help you." Adele's father built a small chapel on the site. She spent the rest of her life trying to answer Our Lady's call, which included opening a Catholic school and beginning a community of Third Order Franciscan women.

Last year, on Dec. 8, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Most Rev. David Ricken, Bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, declared "with moral certainty" the "supernatural character" of "the events, apparitions, and locutions given to Adele Brise in October of 1859."

Thus, this became the first Church-approved apparition of Mary in the United States. You can find more information on the Diocese of Green Bay website at

Father Joe Roesch, MIC, is the Marians' vicar general. He lives in Rome, Italy.

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