Vatican Extends Plenary Indulgence for the Souls in Purgatory

On Monday, November 2, we celebrated All Souls Day, and traditionally on this feast the Church gives the faithful an opportunity to gain a plenary indulgence for the souls in Purgatory. But if you’re worried that you missed that opportunity, you’re in luck! Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Vatican has decreed that this plenary indulgence can be gained throughout the month of November.

If you’ve never heard of a plenary indulgence before, here’s a little primer. A plenary indulgence is “a remission of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1471)

As the Catechism tells us in paragraphs 1472:

To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the “eternal punishment” of sin. On the other hand 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.

A plenary indulgence removes all temporal punishment, so for a person on earth it would be as though they had just been baptized. If they died at that moment they would go straight to heaven. The Church also gives us the opportunity to obtain a plenary indulgence for souls in Purgatory. The Catechism says in paragraph 1479:

Since the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted.

Here’s how you can obtain a plenary indulgence for souls in Purgatory anytime during the month of November. Typically, a plenary indulgence applicable to the souls in Purgatory may be obtained by those who piously visit a church, public oratory, or cemetery during the octave of All Souls. This year, in order to avoid large gatherings of people the Vatican decree stated:

“The elderly, the sick and all those who for serious reasons cannot leave their homes, for example because of restrictions imposed by the competent authority in this time of the pandemic, in order to prevent numerous faithful from crowding into the holy places, will be able to obtain the plenary indulgence as long as they join spiritually with all the other faithful, completely detached from sin and with the intention of complying as soon as possible with the three usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion and prayer according to the Holy Father’s intentions), before an image of Jesus or the Blessed Virgin Mary, recite pious prayers for the deceased, for example, Lauds and Vespers of the Office of the Dead, the Marian Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, other prayers for the deceased dearest to the faithful, or occupy themselves in considered reading of one of the Gospel passages proposed by the liturgy of the deceased, or perform a work of mercy by offering to God the sorrows and hardships of their own lives.”

In addition to visiting these places (physically or spiritually) and offering the prescribed prayers, the general requirements of indulgences must be met, which are:

  • Pray for the intentions of our Holy Father
  • Worthily receive Holy Communion (ideally on the same day, or within several days if that is not possible)
  • Go to Confession within about 20 days of the indulgenced work
  • Be in a state of grace at the time the indulgenced work is completed
  • For a plenary indulgence it is also necessary to have a complete detachment from sin, even venial sin

In honor of the Month of the Holy Souls, Relevant Radio® will celebrate a Novena of Masses for the Holy Souls in Purgatory from November 16-24 – and we want you to join us! Send us the names of your departed loved ones and we will remember them in our intentions during this special Novena of Masses.

Head to relevantradio.com/souls to submit the names of your loved ones, and then join us November 16-24 as we broadcast the Novena of Masses for the Holy Souls in Purgatory from the Chapel of the Nativity at the Relevant Radio headquarters. You can listen to the broadcast on your local Relevant Radio station each day at Noon CT and 7:30pm CT or you can listen or watch online each day at Noon CT.

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Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.