What is a plenary indulgence?

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) — On Friday, March 27, Pope Francis extended an extraordinary blessing “urbi et orbi” (to Rome and the world) in the face of the pandemic coronavirus. With the blessing, the Holy Father bestowed a plenary, i.e., full indulgence to the faithful who watched or listened to the extraordinary blessing, or who could not do either.

Also, a full indulgence goes to those who are in the hospital or in quarantine with the coronavirus. The same indulgence goes to the family members of those who have tested positive and to health care workers and others who assist those who are sick with the virus.

As the pope grants indulgences, he provides the opportunity to recognize indulgences as a testimony to how much the Church trusts in Christ’s mercy.

St. Pope John Paul II once pointed out that an indulgence is not a quick ticket to heaven. Instead, with the gift of an indulgence, the Church opens its eyes to the full damage of our sinfulness. Catholics must receive an indulgence with a resolve for ongoing conversion. That conversion works to heal the results of sin, repairs the damage from those sins, draws one farther away from sin and closer to the fullness of life in Christ.

To avoid approaching indulgences in a glib way, the Church establishes duties required for receiving indulgences. These obligations consist of spiritual activities to help set and stay the course, as well as sustain the pursuit of ongoing conversion.

Among the conditions for receiving the indulgences granted expressly during the coronavirus pandemic are:

• A spirit of attachment from sin

• Sacramental confession and eucharistic Communion as soon as possible

• Join in prayer with the intentions of the Holy Father

• Through the media, unite spiritually in celebrations of Mass

• Scripture reading, recitation of the rosary, Stations of the Cross and other devotions

• Prayer and contemplation before the reserved sacrament and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

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