WordAlone - Indulgences, anyone?
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Indulgences, anyone?

From the papal bull Incarnationis Mysterium, Sections 9, 10, and Decree Bull of Indiction of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000

November 29, 1998

In 1997, The ELCA endorsed a document known as the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification which claims that "a consensus in basic truths of the doctrine of justification exists between Lutherans and Catholics" (sec. 40). Is the Reformation over? While some Lutheran leaders want you to think so, we'd like to offer an alternative view by pointing to the Pope's recent re-issuing of indulgences. Will you soon be able to purchase them from your local ELCA Bishop, freshly ordained into an historic episcopate?

  • JOHN PAUL
  • BISHOP
  • SERVANT OF THE SERVANTS OF GOD

TO ALL THE FAITHFUL JOURNEYING TOWARDS THE THIRD MILLENNIUM HEALTH AND THE APOSTOLIC BLESSING

[...]

9. Another distinctive sign, and one familiar to the faithful, is the indulgence, which is one of the constitutive elements of the Jubilee....

Because it offends the holiness and justice of God and scorns God's personal friendship with man, sin has a twofold consequence. In the first place, if it is grave, it involves deprivation of communion with God and, in consequence, exclusion from a share in eternal life. To the repentant sinner, however, God in his mercy grants pardon of grave sin and remission of the“eternal punishment” which it would bring....

Every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. [There is] among the faithful a marvellous exchange of spiritual gifts, in virtue of which the holiness of one benefits others in a way far exceeding the harm which the sin of one has inflicted upon others. There are people who leave in their wake a surfeit of love, of suffering borne well, of purity and truth, which involves and sustains others. This is the reality of “vicariousness”, upon which the entire mystery of Christ is founded. ...This is what is meant by “the treasures of the Church”, which are the good works of the saints.... [T]he truth about the communion of saints which unites believers to Christ and to one another, reveals how much each of us can help others — living or dead — to become ever more intimately united with the Father in heaven.

Drawing on these doctrinal reasons and interpreting the motherly intuition of the Church, I decree that throughout the entire Jubilee all the faithful, properly prepared, be able to make abundant use of the gift of the indulgence, according to the directives which accompany this Bull (cf. attached decree).....

CONDITIONS FOR GAINING THE JUBILEE INDULGENCE

All the faithful, properly prepared, can fully enjoy, throughout the Jubilee, the gift of the indulgence, in accordance with the following norms.

While indulgences granted either generally or by special rescript remain in force during the Great Jubilee, it should be noted that the Jubilee indulgence also can be applied in suffrage to the souls of the deceased: such an offering constitutes an outstanding act of supernatural charity, in virtue of the bond which, in the Mystical Body of Christ, unites the faithful still on pilgrimage here below and those who have already ended their earthly journey.

Then too, the rule that a plenary indulgence can be gained only once a day remains in force during the entire Jubilee year.

The high point of the Jubilee is the encounter with God the Father, through Christ the Saviour present in his Church and in a special way in the Sacraments. For this reason, the whole Jubilee journey, prepared for by pilgrimage, has as its starting point and its conclusion the celebration of the Sacraments of Penance and of the Eucharist, the paschal mystery of Christ, our peace and our reconciliation: this is the transforming encounter which opens us to the gift of the indulgence for ourselves and for others.

The high point of the Jubilee is the encounter with God the Father, through Christ the Saviour present in his Church and in a special way in the Sacraments. For this reason, the whole Jubilee journey, prepared for by pilgrimage, has as its starting point and its conclusion the celebration of the Sacraments of Penance and of the Eucharist, the paschal mystery of Christ, our peace and our reconciliation: this is the transforming encounter which opens us to the gift of the indulgence for ourselves and for others.

Participation in the Eucharist, which is required for all indulgences, should properly take place on the same day as the prescribed works are performed.

These two culminating moments must be accompanied, first of all, by the witness of communion with the Church, manifested by prayer for the intentions of the Roman Pontiff, and also by acts of charity and penance, following the indications given below: these acts are meant to express the true conversion of heart to which communion with Christ in the Sacraments leads. Christ is truly our forgiveness and the expiation of our sins (cf. 1 Jn 2:2). By pouring into the hearts of the faithful the Holy Spirit who is the “remission of all sins”, he guides each individual towards a filial and trusting encounter with the Father of mercies. From this encounter springs a commitment to conversion and renewal, to ecclesial communion and to charity towards our brothers and sisters.

Likewise confirmed for the coming Jubilee is the norm whereby confessors can commute, on behalf of those legitimately impeded, both the work prescribed and the conditions required. Cloistered men and women religious, the infirm and all those who for whatever reason are not able to leave their own house, can carry out, in lieu of a visit to a certain Church, a visit to the chapel of their house; should even this be impossible for them, they can gain the indulgence by spiritually uniting themselves with those carrying out the prescribed work in the ordinary manner and by offering to God their prayers, sufferings and discomforts.

With regard to the required conditions, the faithful can gain the Jubilee indulgence:

1) In Rome, if they make a pious pilgrimage to one of the Patriarchal Basilicas, namely, the Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican, the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour at the Lateran, the Basilica of Saint Mary Major and the Basilica of Saint Paul on the Ostian Way, and there take part devoutly in Holy Mass or another liturgical celebration such as Lauds or Vespers, or some pious exercise (e.g., the Stations of the Cross, the Rosary, the recitation of the Akathistos Hymn in honour of the Mother of God); furthermore, if they visit, as a group or individually, one of the four Patriarchal Basilicas and there spend some time in Eucharistic adoration and pious mediations, ending with the “Our Father”, the profession of faith in any approved form, and prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary. To the four Patriarchal Basilicas are added, on this special occasion of the Great Jubilee, the following further places, under the same conditions: the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, the Basilica of Saint Lawrence in Campo Verano, the Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love, and the Christian Catacombs.

2) In the Holy Land, if, keeping the same conditions, they visit the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, or the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem or the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

3) In other ecclesiastical territories, if they make a sacred pilgrimage to the Cathedral Church or to other Churches or places designated by the Ordinary, and there assist devoutly at a liturgical celebration or other pious exercise, such as those mentioned above for the City of Rome; in addition, if they visit, in a group or individually, the Cathedral Church or a Shrine designated by the Ordinary, and there spend some time in pious meditation, ending with the “Our Father”, the profession of faith in any approved form, and prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

4) In any place, if they visit for a suitable time their brothers and sisters in need or in difficulty (the sick, the imprisoned, the elderly living alone, the handicapped, etc.), as if making a pilgrimage to Christ present in them (cf. Mt 25:34-36), and fulfilling the usual spiritual and sacramental conditions and saying the usual prayers. The faithful will certainly wish to repeat these visits throughout the Holy Year, since on each occasion they can gain the plenary indulgence, although obviously not more than once a day. The plenary indulgence of the Jubilee can also be gained through actions which express in a practical and generous way the penitential spirit which is, as it were, the heart of the Jubilee. This would include abstaining for at least one whole day from unnecessary consumption (e.g., from smoking or alcohol, or fasting or practising abstinence according to the general rules of the Church and the norms laid down by the Bishops' Conferences) and donating a proportionate sum of money to the poor; supporting by a significant contribution works of a religious or social nature (especially for the benefit of abandoned children, young people in trouble, the elderly in need, foreigners in various countries seeking better living conditions); devoting a suitable portion of personal free time to activities benefitting the community, or other similar forms of personal sacrifice.

  • Given in Rome,
  • at the Apostolic Penitentiary,
  • on 29 November 1998,
  • the First Sunday of Advent.