Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Stranger in Paradise

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Stranger in Paradise

Article excerpt

Christians in the past wondered just as much as Christians now whether those who are not Christians go to heaven. Is it possible that even some of our bitterest foes might make the cut? Fortunately, we have a history of not only thoughtful but caring responses. One of the most beautiful and moving answers to the question appears in the section describing heaven in that great poem, the Divine Comedy of Dante. Dante, being led on the tour of paradise by his guide, Beatrice, is surprised to see several non-Christians among the righteous rulers crowned in glory' The blessed, singing in one voice, explain to him:

"But note, many cry Christ, Christ! who shall be far less near Him at the Judgment than such as know not Christ, and such Christians the Ethiopian shall condemn when the two companies are parted, the one forever rich, the other poor. What can the Persians say to your [Christian] kings when they see that volume opened in which are written all their [the Christian kings'] infamies? …

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