Plenary Indulgences in the Time of Coronavirus

March 24, 2020

On March 20, 2020 the Apostolic Penitentiary issued a decree on gaining a plenary indulgence during the COVID-19 (“Coronavirus”) pandemic.

Scope of the Indulgence

In its decree, the Apostolic Penitentiary granted plenary indulgences to “the faithful suffering from the Covid-19 virus, commonly known as coronavirus, as well as to healthcare workers, family members and all those who in any capacity, including through prayer, care for them.”

The indulgence is intended to address a global pandemic that has caused “new uncertainties and above all widespread physical and moral suffering.”

Conditions of the Indulgence

The Penitentiary’s indulgence decree applies to Coronavirus patients quarantined by health authorities in hospitals and in their homes if, “with a spirit detached from any sin, they unite themselves spiritually through the media to the celebration of the Holy Mass, the recitation of the Holy Rosary, to the pious practice of the Way of the Cross or other forms of devotion.”

The plenary indulgence can also be obtained by the faithful if they at least “recite the creed, the Lord’s Prayer and a pious invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, offering this trial in a spirit of faith in God and charity towards their brothers and sisters, with the will to fulfill the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the Holy father’s intentions), as soon as possible.”

This indulgence is also granted to healthcare workers, family members and all those “exposing themselves to the risk of contagion, [and] care for the sick” under the same conditions stated above.

Also, the faithful who offer a “visit to the Blessed Sacrament, or Eucharistic adoration, or read the Holy Scriptures for half an hour, or recite the Holy Rosary, or the pious exercise of the Way of the Cross, or the recitation of the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy” while praying for an end to the pandemic will be granted a plenary indulgence.

A Reminder on Indulgences

An indulgence is a total or partial remission of the temporal punishment which man would have to suffer either in this or the next life, after the sins have been remitted. A plenary indulgence in particular is a total remission.

The Council of Trent expressly states that the Church has power to grant indulgences (Sess. 25), and this statement it supports by the words of Christ. For as Christ instructed: “Amen, I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in Heaven.” And so He also promised that whatever the Church looses upon earth, is ratified and loosed in Heaven. “Whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in Heaven.” (Mt. 18:18). Even an Apostle granted an indulgence. In the person and by the power of Christ, St. Paul forgave the incestuous Corinthian upon whom he had imposed a heavy punishment so that his spirit might be saved by Our Lord Jesus Christ, (2 Cor. 2:10; 1 Cor. 5:4-5).

The faithful must remember that an indulgence is no grant or license to commit sin, as the enemies of the Church falsely assert. An indulgence does not grant forgiveness of sins past or future, much less contain the permission to commit sin. No Catholic can believe that by gaining indulgences that he is released from penance or other good works, or free from the fight with his evil inclinations, passions and habits. Indulgences give nothing else than partial or total remission of temporal punishment and they remind us of our weakness and lukewarmness which is great when compared with the zeal and fervor of the early Christians.

Finally, indulgences remind the faithful to thank God continually and that He gave the Church a means in the inexhaustible treasure of the merits of Christ and His saints to assist them in their weakness.