Pope prolongs suspense about limbo

Contrary to expectations, the Roman Catholic leader says nothing about abolishing the idea of a not-heaven, not-hell where babies who die unbaptized, among others, spend eternity.

"Pope Benedict had decided to keep limbo in limbo a little longer," Reuters reported on Friday,demonstrating thatfew in the news business can resist a limbo joke.

"Pope keeps limbo in limbo, for now," echoed the Washington Post.

The news? Contrary to expectations, theRoman Catholicleaderhad failedto say anything about abolishing theidea of a not-heaven, not-hell where babies who die unbaptized, among others, spend eternity.

The Vatican's International Theological Commission, which has been studying the matter, is widely expected to come down against limbo, which came into Catholic thinking in the 13th century.

It was a sort of theological patch, softening an earlier doctrine that souls innocent of personal sin could still go to hell for lack of baptism. Although they wouldn't qualify for heaven, they would not experience pain, Catholics were taught. Limbo was widely imagined as a sort of free-floating nothingness.

The Pope has been quoted in the past as saying skeptical things aboutlimbo, calling it"a theological hypothesis" that has "never been a definitive truth of the faith."

When he worshipped with members of the theological commission on Friday, therewas speculation that he would announce a decision on limbo's future,buthis homily, or sermon, said nothing about it, Reuters reported.

Even so, there are signs thatthe ideais doomed.

"All of us have hope for the babies" that they will go to heaven under revised Catholic Church thinking, Rev. Luis Ladaria, a Jesuit who is secretary general to the 30-member commission, told the Associated Press.