Plenary indulgence: what it is and what it means to receive it - CARF
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16 Sep, 20


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What is plenary indulgence and its meaning?

The Holy Spirit, through His Church, gives Christians tools to reach Heaven. One of them is the Plenary Indulgence.

What is plenary indulgence?

The antecedents of the plenary indulgence date back to the third century. But today they have little to do with the practices carried out in ancient Christianity. Although it retains theological and historical interest.

Since 1983, the Code of Canon Law (can. 992) and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 1471) have defined indulgence in this way:

"An indulgence is the remission before God of the temporal punishment for sins, already forgiven, as to guilt, which a faithful willing and fulfilling certain conditions obtains through the mediation of the Church, which, as the administrator of redemption, distributes and applies with authority the treasure of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints."

Why is it called this name?

It is called plenary indulgence because it fully suppresses this temporal punishment for sins committed and confessed up to that moment.

Meaning of plenary indulgence: what is it for?

When a Christian commits a sin and repents, God forgives his or her sins, by means of the sacrament of confession. Even so, there remains a pending responsibility for the consequences that the sin has had for the same person or for others, or even for society in general. This consequence is called a temporal penalty and is a debt that persists and must be paid, either in this life or in Purgatory.

It is called plenary indulgence because it fully suppresses this temporal punishment for sins committed and confessed up to that moment.

Difference between plenary and partial indulgence

Temporary punishment can be reduced through the performance of good works, prayer, Christian acceptance of suffering and the reception of indulgence, which can be partial or plenary.

The Plenary Indulgence offers the repentant and confessed sinner the benefit of totally eliminating the debt he has owed during his life in this world up to that moment. This fully abolishes the penalty to be paid for sins committed and confessed up to that moment. In the absence of plenary indulgence, this penalty would be paid in only two ways: with the sufferings and good works of this life or with a time in purgatory.

On the other hand, partial indulgence removes the temporary penalty partially. We obtain it very often. By giving ourselves a blessing; by praying the Angelus, the Magnificat; by visiting the Blessed Sacrament for a while; by praying the Creed; by making an examination of conscience; by ask for the dead.

Throughout time, the Church has determined different ways to attain the plenary indulgence. There are some that can be done at any time: half an hour of adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament, praying the Stations of the Cross, pray the rosary in family or community, read the Bible.

Difference between plenary indulgence and absolution of the sacrament of confession

We must distinguish between guilt and sorrow. When we sin, that is, when we do wrong against God, the Church, ourselves and/or others, guilt is our responsibility. The penalty, on the other hand, is the consequence of that sin. In confession, God erases the guilt of our sins and part of the penalty that we should serve after death. Throughout life and depending on our sins, there always remains a part of the penalty to be expiated, that penalty that cannot be erased by confession.

How to gain plenary indulgence

You can receive one plenary indulgence per day and ask for it for your soul or for a deceased person.

  • To have the interior disposition of total detachment from sin, even venial sin.
  • Receive the sacrament of confession, 20 days before or 20 days after.
  • Communion, as a demonstration of a renewed commitment to Jesus and preferably at Mass.
  • Praying for the Pope's intentions. Praying with true devotion some prayer, preferably the Creed and the Our Father.

How to win it for the deceased?

The Church also allows Catholics to gain a plenary indulgence for the souls of family members or loved ones who are in the purgatory. You can offer for a deceased person by following the steps below:

  • On November 2, the day of Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, a pious visit is made to a church or oratory. During this visit, the Creed and an Our Father should be recited. In addition, the intention to avoid any venial or mortal sin should be formulated.
  • It is necessary to go to confession, receive Holy Communion and pray an Our Father and a Hail Mary for the Pope's intentions.
  • These conditions can be fulfilled a few days before or after the feast of the Dead, but it is convenient that Communion and prayer, for the intentions of the Pope, take place on the same day.

You cannot offer your indulgence for someone who is still alive, even if they are sickfor your time is not up.

Is it possible to gain a plenary indulgence during Holy Week?

Yes, during the last week of the LentIn addition, it is possible to obtain plenary indulgence by performing the acts mentioned above. And also by performing different enriched works, only available during Holy Week:

  • Holy Thursday: Recite "Tantum Ergo" ("Adore Prostrate") during adoration of the Blessed Sacrament after the Mass of the Lord's Supper. Another option is to visit the Blessed Sacrament and pray for half an hour.
  • Good Friday: Attend the adoration of the Cross in the celebration of the Passion of the Lord.
  • Holy Saturday: Praying the Rosario alone or accompanied.
  • Easter Vigil: (Holy Saturday evening) Renewing the promises of the Saint Baptism

Special occasions noted by the Pope

There are also plenary indulgences for specific moments as happened in the year of faith, where one could visit a Papal Basilica and visit a baptistery or the Jubilee year of mercy, where by performing works of piety, mercy or penance one gained an indulgence.

Today and during the coronavirus pandemicOn March 20, the Holy Father announced three special plenary indulgences for people infected with AIDS-19 and for those who care for them, including family members and medical personnel, and for all those who pray for them.

Gaining plenary indulgence during the coronavirus epidemic: How to do it and ways to do it

The Apostolic Penitentiary also reminds the faithful of the possibility of collective absolution in this time of health emergency. Different forms of plenary indulgence can be obtained:


It can be obtained by:

  • Patients suffering from Coronavirus disease.
  • Health authorities, or people who are in quarantine, either in hospitals or in their own homes.
  • Health care workers, family members and all those who in any capacity, following the example of the Good Samaritan, expose themselves to the risk of contagion, care for the sick with Coronavirus, according to the words of the Divine Redeemer: "Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Jn 15:13). (Jn 15:13).

This first plenary indulgence can be obtained by those mentioned above who, with a spirit detached from all sin, offer this trial in a spirit of faith in God and charity towards their brothers and sisters, and with a willingness to fulfill the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion and prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father) as soon as possible, either, that they spiritually join in the celebration of the Holy Mass through the media The participants pray the Holy Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer and make a pious invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary.


A second plenary indulgence is available to all the faithful for the duration of the current pandemic under the same conditions, i.e., with the willingness to obtain sacramental absolution, receive Holy Communion and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father as soon as possible.

This second plenary can be obtained by whom:

  • They ask Almighty God for the end of the epidemic, relief for those who are afflicted and eternal salvation, for those whom the Lord has called into His presence.
  • They offer a visit to the Blessed Sacrament.
  • Attend Eucharistic Adoration.
  • They read the Holy Scriptures for at least half an hour.
  • They pray the Holy Rosary, pious exercise of the Stations of the Cross or recite the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.


A third plenary indulgence is available to the faithful on the verge of death. The dying faithful can receive the indulgence if they are properly disposed, that is, have a spirit detached from all sin. In this case, the Church supplements the three usual conditions required (confession, Holy Communion and prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father). The use of the crucifix or cross is recommended for this indulgence.

As we see it is not a difficult task to attain plenary indulgence, this is the key to Heaven. Get going and try to get yours today.

Plenary indulgence and medal of St. Benedict

On March 12, 1742 Benedict XIV granted plenary indulgence to the medal of St. Benedict if the person fulfills the following conditions:

The medal of St. Benedict is recognized because today it bears his name, and contains on both sides several symbols to which power over evil is attributed.

Today it is believed that the symbolism of the medal is due to a particular moment in the life of the saint. Benedict was living as a hermit in a cave. He was famous for his holiness, so a religious community asked him to take over as Abbot. But some monks did not agree with the discipline he demanded of them. So they tried to kill him with poisoned bread and wine. But St. Benedict made the sign of the cross over these things and knew they were poisoned.

On March 12, 1742, Benedict XIV granted a plenary indulgence to the medal of St. Benedict if the person complies with the following conditions aforementioned conditions and during major holidays

The great feasts established to obtain this grace are:

  • Epiphany of the Lord (January 6)
  • Easter
  • Ascension Day (May 26th)
  • During Pentecost
  • The Most Holy Trinity (June 7)
  • Corpus Christi (June 16)
  • Feast of St. Benedict (July 11)
  • On the day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (August 15)
  • Virgin Mary's Birth (September 8)
  • Day of All Saints (November 1)
  • Immaculate Conception Day (December 8th)
  • Christmas (December 25)
With the collaboration of:

Catechism of the Catholic Church
Decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary regarding the granting of special indulgences to the faithful in the current pandemic situation, 20.03.2020


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