The 30 members of the Vaticans international theological commission, headed by Cardinal Joseph Levada, are recommending to the pope the cancellation of limbo. Limbo is that corner on the borders of hell to which are consigned those who, while not condemned to torture, are not admitted to the joys of paradise. There are two branches: the limbus infantum, reserved particularly for unbaptized infants and also those held to be mentally deficient, and the limbus patrum or Abrahae, into which went prophets of the Old Testament and even, according to Dante, the Latin poet, Virgil, to be released by Christ on his descent into Hell.

The term limbus first appears in the Summa theologica of St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), but gained its widespread currency thanks to Dante. The concept enjoyed great popularity in the Church as it provided such a comfortable solution to the problem of what happened to such beings, a problem which had exercised theologians since the time of St Augustine (fourth and early fifth centuries).

In the catechism of the Catholic Church of John Paul II, there is no longer mention of limbo, it being stated that children who die unbaptized can but be entrusted to the mercy of God.

The relative document is expected to be drawn up by Pope Benedict XIV by the end of 2007.