The doctrine of the communion of saints states that the body of Christ consists of three churches:

  • The Church militant, or Latin ecclesia militans, or Greek ἡ ἐκκλησία ἡ στρατευομένη
  • The Church triumphant, or Latin ecclesia triumphans, or Greek ἡ ἐκκλησία ἡ θριαμβεύουσα
  • The Church penitent, or Latin ecclesia penitens

Is there a Greek phrase which corresponds to the Latin ecclesia penitens found in any Catholic writings?

  • I heard just about 1 and 2, what is the Church penitent? Oct 6, 2015 at 10:37
  • @Малъ Скрылевъ: The souls in purgatory. Some also call it the "Church suffering."
    – user900
    Oct 6, 2015 at 15:50

2 Answers 2


I'm not Orthodox myself, but in the book His Broken Body, the author says that while there is no official term in the Orthodox church for "Church penitent" or "purgatory," because there is no official dogma concerning these ideas, the concept nevertheless, practically, exists:

It is certain that Eastern Orthodox theologians do not use (and do not like) the word purgatory, mainly because they are concerned with its legalistic implications, the historical connection with the doctrine of indulgences and other possible misunderstandings... The Eastern Orthodox problem with 'purgatory' is not so much the idea of mercy after death as the legal concepts, terminology and dogmatization used to express it.

We can certainly affirm that Orthodox Christians hope and believe that prayers for the dead are, however mysteriously, effectual. But it is also very important to admit that this conviction is based more on apparition stories than on specific scriptural evidence. The beloved Dialogues of Pope Gregory the Great are famous for such stories, but there are many similar examples in contemporary Orthodox literature.

The author than sites examples of stories from Prologue from Ochrid and Eternal Mysteries beyond the Grave, before concluding

Such stories remind us that popular Orthodox theology has a version of purgatory that is hardly distinguishable from its Roman Catholic counterpart... The fact that Christians have always prayed for the dead comes with the unshakable certainty that the practice is indeed efficacious.


The Church penitent, or Latin ecclesia penitens

The souls in purgatory. Some also call it the "Church suffering." –

It seems that statement Church penitent belongs to the purgatory term. Since Orthodox church has no doctrine of purgatory, i.e. according Orthodox dogmatics, soul of a person can be in two states, in a sin, or in a saint. By the prayer of living people, sin can be forgiven, and a man would inherit the Heaven Kingdom, and all people of Heaven Kingdom are the The Church triumphant. Therefore in Orthodoxy the there are no the term of Church penitent.

  • Ah, I didn't know that! I will remove Orthodox tag then. Thank you for the knowledge.
    – user900
    Oct 6, 2015 at 17:04

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