On 29 June 2002, the Apostolic Penitentiary of the Holy See promulgated a decree creating new indulgences that may be gained by the faithful in connection with the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday. This decree grants a plenary indulgence to those who comply with all the conditions established, and a partial indulgence to those who incompletely fulfill the conditions.
Decree of Indulgence
Summary of the Decree of Indulgence
What is an Indulgence?
General Conditions for a Plenary Indulgence
The Indulgence versus The Promise
The Decree of Indulgence 29 June 2002
Indulgences attached to devotions in honour of Divine Mercy
"O God, your mercy knows no bounds and the treasure of your goodness is infinite..." (Prayer after the "Te Deum" Hymn) and "O God, you reveal your almighty power above all by showing mercy and forgiveness..." (Prayer for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time), in these prayers Holy Mother Church humbly and faithfully sings of Divine Mercy. Indeed, God's great patience with the human race in general and with each individual person shines out in a special way when sins and moral failures are forgiven by Almighty God Himself and the guilty are readmitted in a fatherlike way to his friendship, which they deservedly lost.
Duty of honouring Divine Mercy
The faithful with deep spiritual affection are drawn to commemorate the mysteries of divine pardon and to celebrate them devoutly. They clearly understand the supreme benefit, indeed the duty, that the People of God have to praise Divine Mercy with special prayers and, at the same time, they realize that by gratefully performing the works required and satisfying the necessary conditions, they can obtain spiritual benefits that derive from the Treasury of the Church. "The paschal mystery is the culmination of this revealing and effecting of mercy, which is able to justify man, to restore justice in the sense of that salvific order which God willed from the beginning in man, and through man, in the world" (Encyclical Letter Dives in misericordia, n. 7).
It is God's Mercy that grants supernatural sorrow and resolution to amend
Indeed, Divine Mercy knows how to pardon even the most serious sins, and in doing so it moves the faithful to perceive a supernatural, not merely psychological, sorrow for their sins so that, ever with the help of divine grace, they may make a firm resolution not to sin any more. Such spiritual dispositions undeniably follow upon the forgiveness of mortal sin when the faithful fruitfully receive the sacrament of Penance or repent of their sin with an act of perfect charity and perfect contrition, with the resolution to receive the Sacrament of Penance as soon as they can. Indeed, Our Lord Jesus Christ teaches us in the parable of the Prodigal Son that the sinner must confess his misery to God saying: "Father I have sinned against heaven and against you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son" (Lk 15,18-19), realizing that this is a work of God, "for [he] was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found" (Lk 15,32).
Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday
And so with provident pastoral sensitivity and in order to impress deeply on the souls of the faithful these precepts and teachings of the Christian faith, the Supreme Pontiff, John Paul II, moved by the consideration of the Father of Mercy, has willed that the Second Sunday of Easter be dedicated to recalling with special devotion these gifts of grace and gave this Sunday the name, "Divine Mercy Sunday" (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Decree Misericors et miserator, 5 May 2000).
The Gospel of the Second Sunday of Easter narrates the wonderful things Christ the Lord accomplished on the day of the Resurrection during his first public appearance: "On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you'. When he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the discples were glad to see the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you'. And then he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained'" (Jn 20,19-23).
To ensure that the faithful would observe this day with intense devotion, the Supreme Pontiff himself established that this Sunday be enriched by a plenary indulgence, as will be explained below, so that the faithful might receive in great abundance the gift of the consolation of the Holy Spirit. In this way, they can foster a growing love for God and for their neighbour, and after they have obtained God's pardon, they in turn might be persuaded to show a prompt pardon to their brothers and sisters.
Pardon of others who sin against us
Thus the faithful will more closely conform to the spirit of the Gospel, receiving in their hearts the renewal that the Second Vatican Council explained and introduced: "Mindful of the words of the Lord: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another' (Jn 13,35), Christians can yearn for nothing more ardently than to serve the men of this age with an ever growing generosity and success.... It is the Father's will that we should recognize Christ our brother in the persons of all men and love them with an effective love, in word and in deed (Pastoral Constitution, Gaudium et spes, n. 93).
Three conditions for the plenary indulgence
And so the Supreme Pontiff, motivated by an ardent desire to foster in Christians this devotion to Divine Mercy as much as possible in the hope of offering great spiritual fruit to the faithful, in the Audience granted on 13 June 2002, to those Responsible for the Apostolic Penitentiary, granted the following Indulgences:
a plenary indulgence, granted under the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer for the intentions of Supreme Pontiff) to the faithful who, on the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday, in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honour of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!");
A partial indulgence, granted to the faithful who, at least with a contrite heart, pray to the merciful Lord Jesus a legitimately approved invocation.
For those who cannot go to church or the seriously ill
In addition, sailors working on the vast expanse of the sea; the countless brothers and sisters, whom the disasters of war, political events, local violence and other such causes have been driven out of their homeland; the sick and those who nurse them, and all who for a just cause cannot leave their homes or who carry out an activity for the community which cannot be postponed, may obtain a plenary indulgence on Divine Mercy Sunday, if totally detesting any sin, as has been said before, and with the intention of fulfilling as soon as possible the three usual conditions, will recite the Our Father and the Creed before a devout image of Our Merciful Lord Jesus and, in addition, pray a devout invocation to the Merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in you).
If it is impossible that people do even this, on the same day they may obtain the Plenary Indulgence if with a spiritual intention they are united with those carrying out the prescribed practice for obtaining the Indulgence in the usual way and offer to the Merciful Lord a prayer and the sufferings of their illness and the difficulties of their lives, with the resolution to accomplish as soon as possible the three conditions prescribed to obtain the plenary indulgence.
Duty of priests: inform parishioners, hear confessions, lead prayers
Priests who exercise pastoral ministry, especially parish priests, should inform the faithful in the most suitable way of the Church's salutary provision. They should promptly and generously be willing to hear their confessions. On Divine Mercy Sunday, after celebrating Mass or Vespers, or during devotions in honour of Divine Mercy, with the dignity that is in accord with the rite, they should lead the recitation of the prayers that have been given above. Finally, since "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Mt 5,7), when they instruct their people, priests should gently encourage the faithful to practise works of charity or mercy as often as they can, following the example of, and in obeying the commandment of Jesus Christ, as is listed for the second general concession of indulgence in the "Enchiridion Indulgentiarum".
This Decree has perpetual force, any provision to the contrary notwithstanding.
Archbishop Luigi De Magistris,
Tit. Archbishop of Nova
Fr Gianfranco Girotti, O.F.M. Conv.,
Summary of the Decree of Indulgence
O God, your mercy knows no bounds and the treasure of your goodness is infinite..." (Prayer after the "Te Deum" Hymn)
"The paschal mystery is the culmination of this revealing and effecting of mercy, which is able to justify man, to restore justice in the sense of that salvific order which God willed from the beginning in man, and through man, in the world" (Encyclical Letter Dives in misericordia, n. 7).
"And so with provident pastoral sensitivity and in order to impress deeply on the souls of the faithful these precepts and teachings of the Christian faith, the Supreme Pontiff, John Paul II, moved by the consideration of the Father of Mercy, has willed that the Second Sunday of Easter be dedicated to recalling with special devotion these gifts of grace and gave this Sunday the name, "Divine Mercy Sunday" (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Decree Misericors et miserator, 5 May 2000).
I. The usual conditions for every plenary indulgence:
sacramental confession [according to previously issued norms, within abut 20 days before or after]
Eucharistic communion [according to previously issued norms, preferably on the day, or the days before or after]
prayer for the intentions of Supreme Pontiff [certain prayers are not specified]
II. The specific conditions for this Indulgence
On Divine Mercy Sunday
in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honour of Divine Mercy
or, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!")
A partial indulgence, granted to the faithful who, at least with a contrite heart, pray to the merciful Lord Jesus a legitimately approved invocation. [e.g. Jesus I trust in You. My Jesus mercy. or any other approved invocation]
Those who cannot go to church or the seriously ill
Conditions for a Plenary Indulgence:
totally detesting any sin,
the intention of fulfilling as soon as possible the three usual conditions of confession, communion and prayers for the Holy Father
recite the Our Father and the Creed before a devout image of Our Merciful Lord Jesus
pray a devout invocation to the Merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in you).
If it is impossible to do even this:
with a spiritual intention unite with those carrying out the prescribed practice for obtaining the Indulgence in the usual way and
offer to the Merciful Lord a prayer and the sufferings of their illness and the difficulties of their lives, with the resolution to accomplish as soon as possible the three conditions prescribed to obtain the plenary indulgence.
Duty of priests
Priests who exercise pastoral ministry, especially parish priests, should
inform the faithful in the most suitable way of the Church's salutary provision [of a plenary indulgence].
promptly and generously be willing to hear their confessions [this does not necessarily have to be on Divine Mercy Sunday itself, since that is not a condition for the indulgence]
On Divine Mercy Sunday, after celebrating Mass or Vespers, or during devotions in honour of Divine Mercy,
lead the recitation of the prayers
when they instruct their people, gently encourage the faithful to practise works of charity or mercy as often as they can
What is an Indulgence?
The Decree of Indulgence for Divine Mercy Sunday grants a plenary or full indulgence to those who satisfy certain conditions established by the Church and a partial (incomplete) indulgence to those who fulfill some but not all or the conditions.
A plenary indulgence means that by the merits of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, the full remission of the temporal punishment due to sacramentally forgiven sins is obtained. The person becomes as if just baptized and would fly immediately to heaven if he died in that instant. A partial indulgence means that a portion of the temporal punishment due to forgiven sin is remitted. Partial indulgences are received either by doing some act to which a partial indulgence is attached (e.g. praying a partially indulgenced prayer), or by the incomplete fulfillment of the conditions attached to a plenary indulgence.
Eternal and Temporal Punishment or Guilt
There are two kinds of punishment attached to sin, eternal and temporal. If the sin is mortal (serious, grave) sin, the person loses the friendship of God and with it the life of divine grace within. This punishment is eternal. If the person is not restored to grace before death he will be punished forever in hell, since serious sin is an infinite insult to an All-Holy God and thus deserves a like punishment. It was to repair for such sin that Jesus became man and was crucified. As God His sacrifice was infinitely meritorious, as Man He was able to represent us. He thus could expiate for our mortal sins, which are not just beyond our power of expiation but infinitely beyond it.
Mortal sin, and also venial sin (which has no eternal punishment attached to it), both disturb the right order within us and in the order of justice in general. We all experience these temporal (or in-time, in-this-world) consequences of sin, both both personally and socially. Sin changes us (or rather we sin because we are not what we are supposed to be), and like a pebble in a pond these changes have effects beyond us. Not only must we be sorry for our sins, but we must be more thoroughly converted to the Lord, and demonstrate that conversion (Acts 26:20) by our actions. So, while sacramental absolution forgives the eternal guilt of sin, which requires the infinite merits of Christ, it does not necessarily remove all the temporal punishment, since they are somewhat within our power to repair (and somewhat unknown to us). Depending on our degree of sorrow, absolution may result in the expiation of all the temporal guilt of sin. However, for that which it does not repair, we must offer further expiation through prayer, penance, carrying the Cross etc., or after death be purified in purgatory (Rev 21:27).
What an Indulgence does is to take an occasion of such expiation (a certain prayer, penance, charity or other designated work) and add to its intrinsic merit before God an additional value based on the treasury of merits of Jesus Christ, and those perfectly united to Him in heaven (the saints). This can either partially, or under certain conditions, totally remit the temporal punishment due to sin. This depends, naturally, on our openness to God's grace. A mechanical performance of an indulgenced work would not have effect. Performing an indulgenced work should have the consequence of fixing our will away from our sins and entirely on God. This is why among the most important of the conditions for receiving a plenary indulgence, and the hardest to satisfy, is the complete detachment or detestation of our sins. By detesting our sins we orient our will away from creatures (to the degree we love them inordinately), towards God. In this way we open our will to the action of His mercy flowing into our souls, which alone is able to effect the complete remission of the temporal punishment to our sins.
An example will perhaps better illustrate these points. A boy playing ball breaks a window of his home. Contrite and sorrowful he goes to his father, who forgives him. However, despite the forgiveness the window is still broken and must be repaired. Since the boy's personal resources are insufficient to pay for a new window, the father requires him to pay a few dollars from his savings and forego some of his allowance for several weeks, but that he, the father, will pay the rest. This balances justice and mercy (generous love). To ask the boy to do nothing, when it is possible for him to make some reparation, would not be in accordance with the truth, or even the boy's good. Yet, even this temporal debt is beyond the boy's possibilities. Therefore, from his own treasury the father generously makes up what the child cannot provide. This is indulgence. Unlike the theologies that say "we are washed it the blood of the Lamb and there is nothing left to do," Catholic teaching respects the natural order of justice, as Jesus clearly did in the Gospels, yet recognizes that man cannot foresee or undo all the temporal consequences of his sin. However, God in His mercy will satisfy justice for what we cannot repair.
Note on Partial Indulgences (days and years)
In the past partial indulgences were "counted" in days (e.g. 300 days) or years (e.g. 5 years). Catholics often mistakenly thought that this meant "time off of purgatory." Since there is no time in purgatory, as we understand it, it meant instead the remission of temporal punishment analogous to a certain amount of penitence as practiced in the early Church. This was a very generous standard, since the penitence required for sacramental absolution in the early centuries was arduous, indeed. However, with Pope Paul VI's 1968 revision of the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum (Collection or Handbook of Indulgences), this confusing way of counting partial indulgences was suppressed, and the evaluation of a partial indulgence left to God.
There are many prayers still circulating on prayer cards and in prayer books which have partial indulgences in days and years attached to them. However, all grants of indulgence issued prior to 1968, unless re-issued in the Enchiridion or specifically exempted by papal decree or privilege, were suppressed by Pope Paul VI. Thus, these many specific prayers with their attached indulgences, as well as the manner of measuring partial indulgences, are no longer valid. Some of them may still receive an indulgence, though, because of being re-issued in the new Enchiridion (e.g. the Anima Christi, the Prayer before a Crucifix and many other formal prayers). All other prayers previously indulgenced could, nonetheless, receive a partial indulgence under the general grants of indulgence which Pope Paul VI, and Pope John Paul II in his 1999 revision of the Enchiridion, established. These general grants establish partial indulgences for devout prayer, penitence and charity, and are a new and very generous inclusion in the Church's grants of indulgence. They have made it unnecessary to grant specific indulgences to prayers and other pious acts, as was done in the past.
Plenary Indulgence - General Conditions
The following "General remarks on Indulgences" from Gift of the Indulgence summarizes the usual conditions given in the Church's law (cf. Apostolic Penitentiary, Prot. N. 39/05/I):
1. This is how an indulgence is defined in the Code of Canon Law (can. 992) and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 1471): "An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints".
2. In general, the gaining of indulgences requires certain prescribed conditions (below, nn. 3, 4), and the performance of certain prescribed works ..... [in this case, those granted for the Feast of Mercy]
3. To gain indulgences, whether plenary or partial, it is necessary that the faithful be in the state of grace at least at the time the indulgenced work is completed. [i.e. one must be a Catholic, not excommunicated or in schism.]
4. A plenary indulgence can be gained only once a day. In order to obtain it, the faithful must, in addition to being in the state of grace:
—have the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, even venial sin;
—have sacramentally confessed their sins;
—receive the Holy Eucharist (it is certainly better to receive it while participating in Holy Mass, but for the indulgence only Holy Communion is required);
—pray for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.
5. It is appropriate, but not necessary, that the sacramental Confession and especially Holy Communion and the prayer for the Pope's intentions take place on the same day that the indulgenced work is performed; but it is sufficient that these sacred rites and prayers be carried out within several days (about 20) before or after the indulgenced act. Prayer for the Pope's intentions is left to the choice of the faithful, but an "Our Father" and a "Hail Mary" are suggested. One sacramental Confession suffices for several plenary indulgences, but a separate Holy Communion and a separate prayer for the Holy Father's intentions are required for each plenary indulgence.
6. For the sake of those legitimately impeded, confessors can commute both the work prescribed and the conditions required (except, obviously, detachment from even venial sin).
7. Indulgences can always be applied either to oneself or to the souls of the deceased, but they cannot be applied to other persons living on earth.
The Indulgence versus The Promise
The Promise was made by the Lord to St. Faustina, as part of a private revelation to her. In reviewing her life as part of the canonization process, the Church determined that she lived a life of heroic virtue, and ultimately the Holy Father canonized her, by an infallible judgment. We can be certain that she is in heaven.
Notwithstanding these facts, the content of private revelation, even to a saint, may only be accorded human credibility. This means that an evaluation of the facts suggest to a reasonable person the truth of its content and its supernatural origin. Catholics reasonably accept it as coming from God, but are not obligated to accept it as a matter of theological faith. Reason itself suggests its truth, and so one could be acting imprudently and unreasonably by not accepting a private revelation after giving the facts and the Church's evaluation a fair hearing, but one could not be considered to be faithless.
In the case of the Divine Mercy Indulgence, it is dogma of the Catholic Faith that the Roman Pontiff is the Vicar of Christ and acts with His authority. Catholics must believe by faith that IF they fulfill the conditions of the Indulgence that they will certainly receive what the Pope has promised, full remission of the temporal punishment due to their forgiven sins. This explains why the Holy See institutionalized the Promise in the form of an Indulgence. Like creating the Feast of Mercy itself, it was inspired by a private revelation, but made effective by the authority of the Church.
So, while the Promise seems easier to fulfill, the Indulgence is more certain. By seeking to satisfy the stricter conditions of the Indulgence, we would certainly satisfy the conditions of the Promise, as well. Keep both intentions in mind, in other words, while doing what is required to gain the Indulgence. What is most intrinsic to the Promise is the generosity of the Lord in forgiving on this day, and so we may reasonably count on Him to provide the actual graces necessary to do what is required for the Indulgence.