By Bruce Johnston, Rome Correspondent
HEAVEN is a state of glorification of God, and not the traditional image of a "paradise in the clouds", the Pope told an audience in Rome last week.
Instead, the expression referred to a state or dimension of "fullness" of a person's encounter with God.
"The heaven or bliss in which we will find ourselves," the Pope, speaking before 7,000 people in his first audience since his return from holiday said, and "not a physical place, nor an abstract concept".
Instead, the term referred to what he called a "real and personal relationship with the Holy Trinity".
His Holiness said: "Paradise is for those who have welcomed God into their life and who have sincerely opened themselves to his love, at least at the moment of death.
"It is important to always maintain a certain sobriety when describing these ultimate realities," he added, "since their representation remains for ever inadequate".
The Pope's intervention was interpreted as being in keeping with other public audiences which he has used to update interpretations of the Catechism.