The gift of Special Indulgences is granted to the faithful suffering from Covid-19 disease, commonly known as Coronavirus, as well as to health-care workers, family members and all those who in any capacity, including through prayer, care for them.
“Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Rom 12:12). The words written by Saint Paul to the Church of Rome resonate throughout the entire history of the Church and guide the judgment of the faithful in the face of all suffering, sickness and calamity.
The present moment in which the whole humanity, threatened by the invisible and insidious disease that has become part of our lives for some time now, is marked day after day by anguished fears, new uncertainties and, above all, by widespread physical and moral suffering.
Following the example of her Divine Master, the Church has always had the care of the sick at heart. As Saint John Paul ii pointed out, the value of human suffering is twofold: “It is supernatural because it is rooted in the divine mystery of the Redemption of the world, and it is likewise deeply human, because in it, the person discovers himself, his own humanity, his own dignity, his own mission” (Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris, n. 31).
Pope Francis, too, in these recent days, has shown his paternal closeness and renewed his invitation to pray incessantly for those who are sick with the Coronavirus.
So that all those who suffer due to Covid-19, may rediscover “the same redemptive suffering of Christ” (ibid., 30) in the very mystery of their suffering, this Apostolic Penitentiary, ex auctoritate Summi Pontificis, trusting in the word of Christ the Lord and considering with a faithful spirit the current epidemic, to be lived in a spirit of personal conversion, grants the gift of Indulgences in accord with the following disposition.
The Plenary Indulgence is granted to the faithful suffering from Coronavirus, who are subject to quarantine by order of the health authority in hospitals or in their own homes, if, with a spirit detached from any sin, they will join spiritually via the media in the celebration of Holy Mass, the recitation of the Holy Rosary, the pious practice of the Via Crucis or other forms of devotion, or if they will at least recite the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and a pious invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, offering this trial in a spirit of faith in God and charity towards their brothers and sisters, with the willingness to fulfil the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the Holy Father’s intentions), as soon as possible.
Health-care workers, family members and all those who, following the example of the Good Samaritan, expose themselves to the risk of contagion to care for the sick of Coronavirus according to the words of the divine Redeemer: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”. (Jn 15:13), will obtain the same gift of the Plenary Indulgence under the same conditions.
Moreover, this Apostolic Penitentiary willingly grants a Plenary Indulgence under the same conditions on the occasion of the current world epidemic, also to the faithful who offer a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, or Eucharistic Adoration, or the reading of the Holy Scriptures for at least half an hour, or the recitation of the Holy Rosary, or the pious exercise of the Way of the Cross, or the recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, to implore from Almighty God the end of the epidemic, relief to those who are afflicted and eternal salvation to those the Lord has called to Himself.
The Church prays for those who are unable to receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and of the Viaticum, entrusting each and every one to Divine Mercy by virtue of the communion of saints and granting the faithful a Plenary Indulgence on the point of death, provided that they are duly disposed and have recited a few prayers during their lifetime (in this case the Church makes up for the three usual conditions required). For the attainment of this indulgence the use of the Crucifix or the cross is recommended (cf. Enchiridion indulgentiarum, n. 12).
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and of the Church, Health of the Sick and Help of Christians, our Advocate, help suffering humanity, save us from the evil of this pandemic and obtain for us every good necessary for our salvation and sanctification.
The present Decree is valid notwithstanding any provision to the contrary.
Given in Rome, from the seat of the Apostolic Penitentiary, on 19 March 2020.
Cardinal Mauro Piacenza
‘I am with you always’ (Mt 28:20)
Note on the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the present emergency of the coronavirus
The seriousness of the current situation calls for reflection on the urgency and centrality of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, along with some necessary clarifications, both to the faithful lay people and to the ministers called to celebrate the Sacrament.
Even in times of Covid-19, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is administered according to universal canon law and according to the provisions in the Ordo Paenitentiae.
Individual confession is the ordinary way to celebrate this sacrament (cf. can. 960 cic), whereas collective absolution, without prior individual confession cannot be imparted except in situations where there is imminent danger of death, as there is insufficient time to hear the confessions of the individual penitents (cf. can. 961, § 1 cic), or when there is a grave necessity (cf. can. 961 § 1, 2° cic), the consideration of which, is up to the diocesan bishop, after reviewing the criteria agreed upon with the other members of the Episcopal Conference (cf. can. 455, § 2 cic) subject to the necessity of the votum sacramenti from each penitent to obtain valid absolution, that is, the intention to confess in due time the individual serious sins which at the time they had no possibility of confessing (cf. can 962, § 1 cic).
This Apostolic Penitentiary believes that there are cases of grave necessity as mentioned above at can. 961, § 2 cic, especially in places that are most greatly affected by the pandemic contagion, and until the phenomenon subsides.
Any further detail can be referred to diocesan bishops, always taking into consideration the supreme good of the salvation of souls (cf. can. 1752 cic).
Should there be a sudden need to impart sacramental absolution to several faithful at the same time, to the extent possible, the priest must forewarn the diocesan bishop or, if he is unable to do so, to inform him as soon as possible (cf. Ordo Paenitentiae, n. 32).
In this present pandemic emergency, it belongs to the diocesan bishop to indicate to priests and penitents the cautious attentiveness that should be adopted in the individual celebration of sacramental reconciliation, such as being in a ventilated place, outside the confessional, the adoption of a suitable distance, the use of protective masks, subject to absolute attention to the safeguarding of the sacramental seal and the required discretion. Moreover, it is always up to the diocesan bishop to determine which cases are of grave necessity and require collective absolution within the territory of his own ecclesiastic circumscription and depending on the level of pandemic contagion: for example the entrance to hospital wards where there are infected faithful who are in danger of death, using as much as possible and with the necessary precautions, means of vocal amplification so that the absolution may be heard.
Where necessary, the need and possibility of forming groups of “extraordinary hospital chaplains” in agreement with health authorities, should be evaluated, even on a voluntary basis and in respect of regulation for the protection from contagion, in order to guarantee the necessary spiritual assistance to the sick and the dying.
Where individual faithful should be in the painful impossibility of receiving sacramental absolution, it should be remembered that perfect contrition, coming from the love of God, loved above all else, expressed by a sincere request for forgiveness (one which the penitent is able to express in that moment) and accompanied by the votum confessionis, that is, by the firm resolution to receive sacramental confession as soon as possible, obtains the forgiveness of sins, even mortal ones (cf. ccc, n. 1452).
Never before than at this time, has the Church experienced the strength of the communion of saints, raising vows and prayers to her Crucified and Risen Lord, in particular the Sacrifice of Holy Mass celebrated daily by priests, even without people.
As a good mother, the Church implores the Lord that humanity may be freed from such a plague, invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy and Health of the Sick, and of her Spouse, Saint Joseph, under whose patronage the Church, as ever, journeys throughout the world.
May Mary Most Holy and Saint Joseph obtain for us abundant graces of reconciliation and salvation, in careful listening to the Word of the Lord that repeats to humanity today: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps 46:11), “I am with you always” (Mt 28:20).
Given in Rome, Apostolic Penitentiary, 19 March 2020, Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Patron of the Universal Church
Cardinal Mauro Piacenza