As part of the Year of Faith, the Vatican announced today that Pope Benedict XVI is to offer a Plenary Indulgence to those who charitably assist the sick 7-11 February, and those who are suffering themselves from illness and infirmity.
A Partial Indulgence will also be offered on those days to those who pray for the Lord’s assistance to those “sick in spirit during this Year of Faith.”
The Plenary Indulgence is offered to the faithful participating in the 21st World Day of the Sick to be celebrated 7–11 February, in Altotting, Germany, and to other places where a ceremony is held “to beseech God to grant the goals of the World Day of the Sick, praying the Our Father, the Creed, and an invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
The Vatican added that the Plenary Indulgence also extends to those who charitably assist the ill elsewhere and cannot attend those celebrations.
The decree, signed by Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro and Bishop Krzysztof Nykiel, respectively penitentiary major and regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, explained that the Plenary Indulgence is a gift to those following the example of the Good Samaritan, who "with a spirit of faith and a merciful soul, put themselves at the service of their brothers and sisters who are suffering or who, if sick, endure the pains and hardships of life.”
They must spend “at least a few hours on that day” generously providing their “charitable assistance to the sick as if they were tending to Christ the Lord Himself and pray the Our Father, the Creed, and an invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, with their soul removed from attachment to any form of sin and with the intention of carrying out as soon as possible that which is necessary to obtain the plenary indulgence,” the decree said.
It added that the faithful who, because of illness, advance age, or other similar reasons cannot take part in the aforementioned celebrations can also obtain the Plenary Indulgence. But the decree stressed they must be “removed from attachment to any form of sin and with the intention of carrying out as soon as possible the usual conditions, spiritually participating in the sacred events of the determined days, particularly through liturgical celebrations and the Supreme Pontiff's message broadcast by television or radio," and that they "pray for all the sick and offer their physical and spiritual suffering to God through the Virgin Mary, 'Salus Infirmorum' (Health of the Sick).”
The Vatican said a Partial Indulgence will be conceded “to all the faithful who, between the indicated days, with a contrite heart raise devout prayers to the merciful Lord beseeching assistance for the sick in spirit during this Year of Faith.”
A Partial Indulgences removes part of the temporal punishment due for sins while a Plenary Indulgence removes all of it. Forgiveness of a sin is separate from punishment for the sin: forgiveness is possible through sacramental confession, but the punishment remains.
Last year, the Holy Father announced that the Church would be granting Plenary Indulgences under particular conditions during this Year of Faith.
For a clear and helpful explanation of indulgences, check out this recent article by the Register’s Joseph Pronechen.