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Joanne Pierce


Religious Studies Department

On Leave 2020-2021
Ph.D., University of Notre Dame


Fields: liturgical studies, medieval Christianity, ritual studies, ecumenical theology, theology and speculative/science fiction 

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Office Phone: 508-793-3452
Office: Smith 423
PO Box: 82A
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The Conversation

Joanne Pierce is a frequent contributor to The Conversation, an independent news and commentary website. Her most recent contributions appear below.

A procession of Christian girls, venerating the Cross, in the village of Qanat Bekish, Lebanon. AP Photo/Hussein Malla

In the fall, Catholics and some other Christian churches celebrate the Feast of the Holy Cross. With the feast, Christians commemorate Jesus Christ’s life, especially his salvific death on the cross and his later Resurrection, believing this offers them the promise of forgiveness and eternal life.

The feast has its roots in late antiquity, a time when the cross became an important part of Christian art and worship. The cross,...

Illustration of Dante's Paradiso. Giovanni di Paolo

When a family member or a friend passes away, we often find ourselves reflecting on the question “where are they now?” As mortal beings, it is a question of ultimate significance to each of us.

Different cultural groups, and different individuals within them, respond with numerous, often conflicting, answers to questions about life after death. For many, these questions are rooted in the idea of reward for the good (a heaven) and punishment for the wicked (a hell), where earthly injustices are finally righted.

However, t...

The abyss of hell. Sandro Botticelli.

The recent dispute over whether Pope Francis denied the existence of hell in an interview attracted wide attention. This isn’t surprising, since the belief in an afterlife, where the virtuous are rewarded with a place in heaven and the wicked are punished in hell, is a core teaching of Christianity.

So what is the Christian idea of hell?

Origins of belief in hell

The Christian belief in hell has developed over the centuries, influenced by both Jewish and Greek ideas ...