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How to Obtain a Plenary Indulgence for the Year of Mercy

Last edited 5th January 2016

How to Obtain a Plenary Indulgence for the Year of Mercy

The 8th of December 2015 marked the beginning of the Holy Year of Mercy, an Extraordinary Jubilee Year called for by Pope Francis. The Catholic tradition of practicing a Holy Year (Jubilee Year) began with Pope Boniface VIII in 1300, and since 1475 an Ordinary Jubilee has been celebrated every 25 years in order to allow each generation to experience at least one during their lifetime.

The Holy Year is traditionally a year of forgiveness of sins and also the punishment merited by one’s sins. It is also a year for reconciliation between enemies, conversion and receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Holy Year also provides a unique opportunity to gain a Plenary Indulgence!

What is a Plenary Indulgence?

A Holy Year brings with it the chance for the faithful to gain a plenary indulgence. According to para. 1471, an indulgence is:

“…a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints”.

In the case of a plenary indulgence, it is a full remission of sins.

How to obtain an indulgence during a Holy Year:

According to the Apostolic Penitentiary, to gain indulgences (plenary or partial) it is necessary that the faithful be in the state of grace at least at the time the indulgenced work is completed.

In order to obtain a plenary indulgence, the faithful must, in addition to being in the state of grace:

— have the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, even venial sin;
— have sacramentally confessed their sins;
— receive the Holy Eucharist (preferably but not necessarily within the context of Mass)
— pray for the intentions of the Pope

Ideally, one would go to confession, receive Communion and perform the indulgence works all on the same day, but it is sufficient that these sacraments and prayers be carried out within several days (about 20) before or after the indulgenced act.

Prayers for the Pope’s intentions is left to the choice of the faithful, but an “Our Father” and a “Hail Mary” are customary. One sacramental Confession suffices for several plenary indulgences, but a separate Holy Communion and a separate prayer for the Holy Father’s intentions are required for each plenary indulgence.

Exceptions can be made by confessors for the sick and the homebound.

Indulgences can always be applied either to oneself or to the souls of the deceased, but they cannot be applied to other persons living on earth.

How often can I obtain a plenary indulgence?

Once daily.

Where to obtain an indulgence during the Holy Year of Mercy:

During a Holy Year, the Pope designates specific locations of pilgrimage at which to obtain indulgences besides the four Holy Doors in Rome. For the Holy Year of Mercy, Holy Doors in the Cathedrals of each diocese as well as in other churches designated by diocesan bishops are places of pilgrimage for the lay faithful to walk through as part of obtaining the plenary indulgence. As Pope Francis wrote in his letter regarding the Holy Year indulgence:

"To experience and obtain the Indulgence, the faithful are called to make a brief pilgrimage to the Holy Door, open in every Cathedral or in the churches designated by the Diocesan Bishop, and in the four Papal Basilicas in Rome, as a sign of the deep desire for true conversion. Likewise, I dispose that the Indulgence may be obtained in the Shrines in which the Door of Mercy is open and in the churches which traditionally are identified as Jubilee Churches. It is important that this moment be linked, first and foremost, to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist with a reflection on mercy. It will be necessary to accompany these celebrations with the profession of faith and with prayer for me and for the intentions that I bear in my heart for the good of the Church and of the entire world."

Check with your diocese to see where the Holy Doors in your area can be found!

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