Pope Benedict XVI is to grant the faithful a Plenary Indulgence for the occasion of the Year of Faith, the Vatican announced today.
The decree states that the indulgence will come into effect on the 50th anniversary of the solemn opening of Vatican Council II, which marks the beginning of the Year of Faith. It says it is “especially dedicated to the profession of the true faith and its correct interpretation, through the reading of - or better still the pious meditation upon - the Acts of the Council and the articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.”
The decree was signed by Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro and Bishop Krzysztof Nykiel, respectively penitentiary major and regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary.
The indulgence, valid from the opening of the Year on 11 October 2012 until its end on 24 November 2013, is for the “temporal punishment of sins, imparted by the mercy of God and applicable also to the souls of deceased faithful.” As with every Plenary Indulgence, it may be obtained “by all faithful who, truly penitent, take Sacramental Confession and the Eucharist and pray in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.”
The decree added: “Since the primary objective is to develop sanctity of life to the highest degree possible on this earth, and thus to attain the most sublime level of pureness of soul, immense benefit may be derived from the great gift of Indulgences which, by virtue of the power conferred upon her by Christ, the Church offers to everyone who, following the due norms, undertakes the special prescripts to obtain them".
These prescriptions are:
“Each time they [the faithful] attend at least three sermons during the Holy Missions, or at least three lessons on the Acts of the Council or the articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in church or any other suitable location.
Each time they visit, in the course of a pilgrimage, a papal basilica, a Christian catacomb, a cathedral church or a holy site designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith (for example, minor basilicas and shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Apostles or patron saints), and there participate in a sacred celebration, or at least remain for a congruous period of time in prayer and pious meditation, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and invocations to the Blessed Virgin Mary and, depending on the circumstances, to the Holy Apostles and patron saints.
Each time that, on the days designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith, ... in any sacred place, they participate in a solemn celebration of the Eucharist or the Liturgy of the Hours, adding thereto the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form.
On any day they choose, during the Year of Faith, if they make a pious visit to the baptistery, or other place in which they received the Sacrament of Baptism, and there renew their baptismal promises in any legitimate form.”
The statement added that diocesan or eparchial bishops, and those who enjoy the same status in law, on the most appropriate day during that period or on the occasion of the main celebrations, "may impart the papal blessing with the Plenary Indulgence".
The document concludes by recalling that those unable to leave their place of abode because of illness or other legitimate reason may still obtain Plenary Indulgence "if, united in spirit and thought with other faithful, and especially at the times when the words of the Supreme Pontiff and diocesan bishops are transmitted by television or radio, they recite ... the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and other prayers that concord with the objectives of the Year of Faith, offering up the suffering and discomfort of their lives".
According to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopaedia, a plenary indulgence is meant for "the remission of the entire temporal punishment due to sin so that no further expiation is required in Purgatory." A partial indulgence, meanwhile, "commutes only a certain portion of the penalty; and this portion is determined in accordance with the penitential discipline of the early Church."