September 22, 2015

The Gift of Indulgences During Eighth Annual World Meeting of Families

A decree granting to Christ’s faithful the favor of indulgences on the occasion of the Eighth World Meeting of Families, to be observed in Philadephia from 22 to 27 September 2015.

The Eighth World Meeting of Families, to be observed in Philadelphia, proposes as its theme “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” with the intent that the Church and civil society direct their energies toward the care of the family, and that the love of God, through the power of the Sacrament of Marriage, might be proclaimed to the whole world.

In order that the faithful may be better prepared spiritually to participate in this event, His Holiness Francis willingly grants the gift of Indulgences according to the conditions indicated below, so that, being truly repentant, and motivated by charity, they devote themselves to the sanctification of the family, according to the example set by the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

The Plenary Indulgence is granted to the faithful under the usual conditions (sacramental  confession,  Eucharistic  communion  and  prayers  for  the  Supreme Pontiff’s intentions) who, with a spirit wholly detached from every sin, and with hearts  united  to  the  spiritual  ends  of  the  upcoming  Year  of  Mercy,  devoutly participate at one of the sacred functions taking place during the  Eighth World Meeting of Families, including its solemn conclusion.

The faithful who, being truly repentant, are unable to participate in this event may obtain the Plenary Indulgence, under the same conditions, if, united in spirit and mind with  the  faithful  gathered  in  Philadelphia,  they  devoutly  recite  within  their  own families the Our Father, the Creed and other prayers for the same intentions, invoking the Divine Mercy, especially when the Holy Father’s words or message are broadcast on television and radio.

Furthermore, the Partial Indulgence is granted to the faithful whenever, during the aforementioned time, they pray with at least a contrite heart for the good of families.

The present Decree is valid for this event. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary. Given in Rome, at the Seat of the Apostolic Penitentiary, 14 September 2015, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Cardinal Mauro Piacenza
Major Penitentiary

Krzysztof Nykiel



September 22 to September 27, 2015

Summary of the Decree

The Apostolic Penitentiary with its decree on September 14, 2015, identified the opportunity for the gift of indulgences for participation in one or more of the solemn and public events of the 2015 World Meeting of Families from September 22 to September 27, 2015. To obtain the Plenary Indulgence, a person must be truly sorry for their sins, free from attachment to sin, even venial sin, receive the Sacrament of Penance and Holy Communion, and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.

All who are unable to participate in the public and solemn events for the World Meeting of Families because of sickness, age, monastic enclosure, or imprisonment, gain the Plenary Indulgences as listed above if they are united in mind and spirit with those actually present. In addition, those unable to participate in such public and solemn events must also be truly repentant, fulfill the usual conditions, recite with their families the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form and other prayers associated with the World Meeting of Families, calling to mind the infinite mercy of God, as well as offering up their sufferings and hardships on the occasion of the indulgence.

A Partial Indulgence may be received by those who, during the time period of the World Meeting of Families, pray for the family with a contrite heart.

What is an indulgence?

An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven.1   There are specific conditions for receiving an indulgence.

As a result of the communion that exists between Christ and all the members of the Church, the Church has a treasury of spiritual goods that is inexhaustible. The source of these spiritual goods is Christ. Through her union with Christ, the Church has the authority to dispense this treasury. When the Church does this, in order to spur people to acts of piety and charity, the Church requires those who seek an indulgence to perform some good work or act of devotion.

An indulgence does not confer grace. An indulgence is not a remission of the guilt due to sin. The guilt due to sin is ordinarily taken away by the Sacraments of Baptism and Penance (confession), in which we receive forgiveness for sins through Jesus Christ. Although guilt is taken away, and with it the eternal penalty that is due to sin, namely, damnation, the eternal loss of the presence of God, there remain consequences for sins that those who have committed them must bear. There is what is traditionally called the temporal punishment for sin.

Every sinful act creates a disorder within the soul of the human person; it distorts our desires and affections, leaving us with “an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory.” Furthermore, sin disrupts one’s relationships with God, with the Church, with other people, and with the world as a whole. The communion intended by God is damaged or lost. Those who have received forgiveness for their sins through the sacraments still have an obligation to undergo a difficult and painful process (the temporal penalty for sin) to be purified of the consequences of their sins and to restore the disrupted relationships. The necessary and painful process that brings restoration and purification can take place either in this life or in Purgatory, as whatever part of the process remains unfinished at death must be completed in Purgatory.

Through an indulgence, God grants the prayer of the Church that the temporal penalty for sin due to someone be reduced [partial indulgence], or possibly eliminated [plenary indulgence]. By God’s grace, participation in a prayer or action that has an indulgence attached to it brings about the necessary restoration and reparation without the suffering that would normally accompany it. The granting of an indulgence by the Church is “the expression of the Church’s full confidence of being heard by the Father when, in view of Christ’s merits and, by his gift, those of Our Lady and the saints, she asks him to mitigate or cancel the painful aspect of punishment by fostering its medicinal aspect through other channels of grace.”2

What is the difference between a partial and plenary indulgence?

An indulgence is partial or plenary according to whether it removes either part [partial] or all [plenary] of the temporal punishment due to sin.3

What are the conditions for obtaining an indulgence?

In order to be capable of gaining indulgences one must be baptized, not excommunicated, and in the state of grace at least at the completion of the prescribed works. To gain an indulgence, one must have at least the general intention of doing so.4

Plenary Indulgence: Furthermore, for reception of a Plenary Indulgence, which grants the remission of all temporal punishment due to sin, in addition to this good work or act of devotion, the Church specifies four conditions: (1) sacramental confession, (2) reception of Holy Communion, (3) prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father, and (4) complete detachment from all sin, even venial sin.5

Partial Indulgences: If the full disposition is lacking, or if the work and the four prescribed conditions are not fulfilled, [save certain specified exceptions], the indulgence will only be partial.6

Note on Partial Indulgences: 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.7

Can a baptized person obtain an indulgence for someone else?

The faithful can obtain Partial or Plenary indulgences for themselves, or they can apply them to the dead.8


2 From USCCB website: devotional-practices-basic-questions-and-answers.cfm

3 Manual of Indulgences N2

4 Manual of Indulgences N17

5 From USCCB website: devotional-practices-basic-questions-and-answers.cfm

Manual of Indulgences N20

7 From EWTN website:


Stephanie Brophy
Associate Director of Communications
215-587-3747 (office)