VATICAN CITY—The Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican tribunal that deals with matters of conscience, issued a notice March 20 that offered the spiritual assistance of special indulgences to people afflicted with COVID-19, to those in quarantine, to medical personnel caring for coronavirus patients and to all those who are praying for them.
In the decree, the Apostolic Penitentiary noted the fear, uncertainty, physical spiritual suffering people around the world are experiencing because of the pandemic.
“This Apostolic Penitentiary, with the authority of the Supreme Pontiff, trusting in the worlds of Christ the Lord and looking with a spirit of faith at the epidemic underway, which should be lived in a tone of personal conversion, grants the gift of indulgences” to a variety of people in a variety of circumstances.
An indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment a person is due for sins that have been forgiven.
Praying for the dying who cannot receive the sacrament of anointing, the decree said the church entrusted them to God’s mercy and drew on the merits of the communion of saints to grant a plenary indulgence to Catholics on the verge of death, as long as they “habitually recited prayers during their lifetime.”
The decree granted a plenary or full indulgence to all Catholics in the hospital or under quarantine because they have tested positive for COVID-19 if they are sorry for their sins and prayerfully watch or listen to Mass, the recitation of the rosary or a pious practice such as the Way of the Cross.
If that is not possible, the decree said, they should at least recite the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer and invoke the help of Mary, “offering this trial in a spirit of faith in God and of charity toward others” and with a determination to go to confession, receive the Eucharist and pray for the intentions of the pope as soon as possible.
“Health care workers, family members and those who, following the example of the good Samaritan, assist those sick with the coronavirus, exposing themselves to the risk of contagion,” also receive the plenary indulgence, it said.
The decree also grants the indulgence to any Catholic who visits the Blessed Sacrament, “reads sacred Scripture for at least a half hour,” recites the rosary or the Divine Mercy Chaplet “to implore Almighty God for an end to the epidemic, the relief of those who are afflicted and eternal salvation for those the Lord has called to himself.”
By Cindy Wooden