VATICAN CITY, JAN. 14, 2005 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II has approved a special plenary indulgence to mark the Year of the Eucharist.
According to a decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary, during the Year of the Eucharist a plenary indulgence may be gained by participating in acts of worship and veneration of the Most Holy Sacrament, as well as by praying vespers and compline of the Divine Office before the tabernacle.
The decree, dated Dec. 25 and published today by the Vatican press office, is signed by Cardinal James Francis Stafford and Father John Francis Girotti, respectively major penitentiary and regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary.
The objective of the papal disposition, the document indicates, is to “exhort the faithful in the course of this year, to a more profound knowledge and more intense love of the ineffable ‘mystery of faith,’ so that they will reap ever more abundant spiritual fruits.”
The decree reminds the faithful that to obtain a plenary indulgence it is necessary to observe the “usual conditions”: “sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion, and prayer in keeping with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff, with the soul completely removed from attachment to any form of sin.”
In the Year of the Eucharist — which began October 2004 and will end October 2005, when the world Synod of Bishops will be held on the Eucharist — the plenary indulgence may be obtained in two ways.
In the first place, according to the decree, “each time the faithful participate attentively and piously in a sacred function or a devotional exercise undertaken in honor of the Blessed Sacrament, solemnly exposed or conserved in the tabernacle.”
In the second place, it is granted “to the clergy, to members of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life, and to other faithful who are by law obliged to recite the Liturgy of the Hours, as well as to those who customarily recite the Divine Office out of pure devotion, each and every time they recite — at the end of the day, in company or private — vespers and night prayers before the Lord present in the tabernacle.”
The decree also provides the granting of the plenary indulgence to those persons who, due to illness or other just cause, cannot participate in an act of worship of the sacrament of the Eucharist in a church or oratory.
These persons will obtain the plenary indulgence “if they make the visit spiritually and with the heart’s desire, with a spirit of faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar, and pray the Our Father and Creed, adding a pious invocation to Jesus in the Sacrament (for example, “May the Most Holy Sacrament be blessed and praised forever”).
Obviously, in all cases, the conditions established to receive a plenary indulgence must be respected.
“If they are unable to do even this, they will receive a plenary indulgence if they unite themselves with interior desire to those who practice the normal conditions laid down for Indulgences, and offer the merciful God the illnesses and discomforts of their lives, with the intention of observing the three usual conditions as soon as possible,” the decree states.
The decree calls on priests, especially pastors, to inform the faithful on these dispositions, to prepare “with generous and ready spirit” to hear confessions and, in days that are determined according to the convenience of the faithful, to lead them “in solemn public recitation of prayers to Jesus in the Sacrament.”
Finally, the decree exhorts the faithful “to give open witness of faith and veneration for the Blessed Sacrament.”
The dispositions were approved by the Holy Father during the audience granted on Dec. 17 to Cardinal Stafford and Fr. Girotti.
The decree will be in force during the Eucharistic Year, starting this Saturday, Jan. 15, the day of its publication in the Italian edition of L’Osservatore Romano.
In number 1471, the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that “[a]n 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.”
Number 1479 adds: “Since the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishment due for their sins may be remitted.”