Three Special Plenary Indulgences

Out of concern for all Catholics during the coronavirus pandemic, the Holy Father on March 20 announced three special plenary indulgences for people with Covid-19, and for those who care for them, including family members and medical staff, and for those who pray for them.

Bishop Michael F. Olson detailed the three special plenary indulgences in his March 24 pastoral letter to the lay faithful of the Diocese of Fort Worth.

Complete pastoral letter (3-24-2020)

What is a Plenary Indulgence?

A plenary indulgence, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, remits all temporal punishment due to sin. To obtain the indulgence, a faithful Christian must be completely detached from all sin and fulfill the ordinary conditions of an indulgence, which are sacramental confession, reception of the Eucharist, and prayer for the intentions of the pope.

God Catches Flying Arrows: The Three Plenary Indulgences Explained

Due to the coronavirus pandemic creating difficulties in obtaining the sacraments in a timely manner, the Holy See is allowing the faithful to obtain the indulgences without immediately completing the three usual conditions (confession, Eucharist, prayer for the pope’s intentions). For the first two indulgences, it suffices to intend to confess and receive Communion as soon as possible. For the third indulgence, the usual threefold conditions are lifted entirely.

Specific information on obtaining the indulgences being imparted during the coronavirus pandemic are below. Click on each section to expand them.

  • The first plenary indulgence can be obtained by:
    • those suffering from Coronavirus.
    • those ordered into quarantine by the health authorities, whether in hospitals or in their own homes.
    • and by health care workers, family members, and all those who, following the example of the Good Samaritan, exposing themselves to the risk of contagion, care for the sick of Coronavirus according to the words of the divine Redeemer: “Greater love has no than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13).
  • This first plenary indulgence can be obtained by the above who, with a spirit detached from any sin, offer this trial in a spirit of faith in God and charity towards their brothers and sisters, and with the will to fulfill the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion, and prayer according to the Holy Father’s intentions) as soon as possible, either
    • unite themselves spiritually to the celebration of Holy Mass through the media (i.e., participate via radio, television, internet, etc. and make a spiritual act of communion).
    • recite the Holy Rosary.
    • pray the Stations of the Cross or other forms of devotion.
    • or at least recite the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and a pious invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
  • A second plenary indulgence is available to all members of the faithful for the duration of the current pandemic under the same conditions, i.e., with the will to obtain sacramental absolution, receive Holy Communion, and pray for the Holy Father’s intentions as soon as possible.
  • This second plenary indulgence can be obtained by those who, implore from Almighty God the end of the epidemic, relief for those who are afflicted, and eternal salvation for those whom the Lord has called to himself, either
    • offer a visit to the Blessed Sacrament.
    • attend Eucharistic adoration.
    • read the Holy Scriptures for at least half an hour.
    • recite the Holy Rosary.
    • pray the Stations of the Cross.
    • or recite the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
  • A third plenary indulgence is available to the faithful on the point of death.
  • Dying members of the faithful can receive the indulgence if they are
    • properly disposed, i.e., have a spirit detached from all sin.
    • and have at least recited a few prayers during their lifetime, in which case the Church provides for the three usual conditions required (confession, Holy Communion, and prayer for the Holy Father’s intentions).
  • The use of a crucifix or a cross is recommended in the attainment of this indulgence.