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Jubilee, instructions for use. How can indulgence be obtained? Ten things you should know

Useful information to better enjoy the extraordinary Jubilee of mercy: what is it and how can a plenary indulgence be obtained? What should be done by the sick, the elderly or those confined to their homes? What should prisoners do? Is it possible to obtain plenary indulgence through the works of mercy and those for the deceased? What sins can priests absolve during the Holy Year? Who are the missionaries of mercy? Where is the reception Centre for pilgrims? Are there special options for people with disabilities?

Almost two-and-a-half million pilgrims have taken part in Rome’s Jubilee to date. Upcoming events include the program “24 hours for the Lord” (“24 ore per il Signore”, March 4-5). The initiative is part of the major events that will be personally attended by Pope Francis, whose intention is to give special relevance to mercy and to the sacrament of Reconciliation during the period of preparation for Easter. What are the instructions to live fully the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy? Follows some useful information.

What is the Jubilee?

It’s a special period, known also as the Holy Year, during which the faithful can obtain plenary indulgence of their sins. It can be ordinary and extraordinary: the first recurs within specific dates, while the latter takes place on special occasions. In the bull of indiction Misericordiae Vultus, Pope Francis wrote: “At times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives. For this reason I have proclaimed an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy as a special time for the Church, a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective.”

What is an indulgence?

An indulgence, states the apostolic constitution Indulgentiarum doctrina, is “the remission before God of the temporal punishment due sins already forgiven as far as their guilt is concerned, which the follower of Christ with the proper dispositions and under certain determined conditions acquires through the intervention of the Church which, as minister of the Redemption, authoritatively dispenses and applies the treasury of the satisfaction won by Christ and the saints.” An indulgence “is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due sin.”

How is plenary indulgence obtained?

According to the apostolic constitution Indulgentiarum doctrina, to obtain plenary indulgence it is necessary to perform the indulgenced work and fulfil three conditions: the sacrament of Reconciliation, participation in the Eucharist, and prayer according to the intentions of the Pope. The three conditions, “may be fulfilled several days before or after the performance of the prescribed work; nevertheless it is fitting that Communion be received and the prayers for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff be said the same day the work is performed.” In the letter of 1st September 2015, Pope Francis clarified that “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.”


How is plenary indulgence obtained by the sick, the elderly, or those confined to their home?

As for those for whom it will be impossible to enter the Holy Door, “it will be of great help to live their sickness and suffering as an experience of closeness to the Lord”,  “living with faith and joyful hope this moment of trial, receiving communion or attending Holy Mass and community prayer, even through the various means of communication, will be for them the means of obtaining the Jubilee Indulgence.

How do convicts obtain plenary indulgence?

They may obtain the Indulgence “in the chapels of the prisons. May the gesture of directing their thought and prayer to the Father each time they cross the threshold of their cell signify for them their passage through the Holy Door, because the mercy of God is able to transform hearts, and is also able to transform bars into an experience of freedom.”

Is it possible to obtain plenary indulgence through works of mercy, and also for the deceased?

It is. Pope Francis invites us to rediscover the richness contained in corporal and spiritual works of mercy. “Each time that one of the faithful personally performs one or more of these actions, he or she shall surely obtain the Jubilee Indulgence. Hence the commitment to live by mercy so as to obtain the grace of complete and exhaustive forgiveness by the power of the love of the Father who excludes no one. The Jubilee Indulgence is thus full, the fruit of the very event which is to be celebrated and experienced with faith, hope and charity.” To the deceased, the Pope adds, “we are bound by the witness of faith and charity that they have left us. Thus, as we remember them in the Eucharistic celebration, thus we can, in the great mystery of the Communion of Saints, pray for them, that the merciful Face of the Father free them of every remnant of fault and strongly embrace them in the unending beatitude.”

Which sins can the priests absolve during the Jubilee?

The Code of Canon Law enshrines only one sin that can be absolved by the bishop, and that is abortion. However, on the occasion of the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis has granted to all priests “the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.” “May priests fulfil this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence.”

Who are the missionaries of mercy?

They are 1.142 priests who have been exclusively nominated by the Pope. They have the faculty to absolve grave sins that are also reserved to the Apostolic See. These are: profanation of the Holy Eucharist, absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the sixth commandment, unauthorized ordination of a bishop, violation by a confessor of the seal of confession, and physical violence against the Pope.

Where is the Reception Centre for pilgrims?

In Via della Conciliazione no. 7. The Centre provides information on the program of the Jubilee, registration for pilgrimage to the Holy Door, tickets for celebrations requiring free-access entrance tickets. The Centre also provides pilgrims with the Testimonium on their participation to the Jubilee.

Are there special pathways for disabled visitors?

In St. Peter’s Basilica dedicated barrier-free confessionals have been set up along with other aids for people with hearing impairment and tactile books supplying directions to the pilgrimage to the Holy Door of St.Peter’s.

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