Below are two quick translations of decrees received today from the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican tribunal that deals with, among other things, indulgences and the Sacrament of Confession (Reonciliation).


Decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary on the granting of special Indulgences to the faithful in the current pandemic situation

Special indulgences are granted to the faithful affected by the Covid-19 disease, commonly known as Coronavirus, as well as to health workers, family members and all those who in any capacity, even with prayer, take care of them.

“Be glad in hope, constant in tribulation, persevering in prayer” (Rom 12,12). The words written by Saint Paul to the Church of Rome resonate throughout the history of the Church and guide the judgment of the faithful in the face of every suffering, disease and calamity.

The present moment in which all of humanity is threatened by an invisible and insidious disease, which for some time now has entered powerfully into everyone’s life, is marked day after day by distressing fears, new uncertainties and above all widespread physical and moral suffering.

The Church, following the example of her Divine Master, has always had assistance to the sick at her heart. As indicated by Saint John Paul II, 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 also deeply human, because in it man finds himself, the their humanity, their dignity, their mission “(Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris, 31).

Pope Francis too, in recent days, has expressed his paternal closeness and renewed the invitation to pray incessantly for the Coronavirus patients.

So that all those who suffer because of Covid-19, precisely in the mystery of this suffering, might rediscover “the same redemptive suffering of Christ” (ibid., 30), this Apostolic Penitentiary, ex auctoritate Summi Pontificis . on the authority of the Holy Father – trusting in the word of Christ the Lord and considering with a spirit of faith the epidemic currently underway to be lived in terms of personal conversion, grants the gift of Indulgences under the following conditions

A Plenary Indulgence is granted to the faithful affected by Coronavirus, subjected to quarantine by order of the health authority in hospitals or in their own homes if, with a soul detached from any sin, they spiritually join via the media 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 at least they will recite the Creed, the Our Father and a pious invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, offering this proof in a spirit of faith in God and charity towards our brothers and sisters, with the will to fulfill the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the intentions of the Holy Father), as soon as it is possible for them.

Health care workers, family members and those who, following the example of the Good Samaritan, exposing themselves to the risk of contagion, assist Coronavirus patients according to the words of the divine Redeemer: «Nobody has a love greater than this: giving life for their own friends »(Jn 15:13), will obtain the same gift of plenary indulgence on the same conditions.

Furthermore, this Apostolic Penitentiary willingly grants Plenary Indulgence under the same conditions on the occasion of the current world epidemic, also to those faithful who offer a visit to the Blessed Sacrament or Eucharistic adoration or the reading of the Holy Scriptures for at least a half hour, or the recitation of the Holy Rosary or the pious exercise of the Via Crucis or the recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, to implore from Almighty God the cessation of the epidemic, relief for those who are afflicted and eternal salvation of those whom the Lord has called to himself.

The Church prays for those who find it impossible to receive the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and Viaticum, entrusting each and every one to Divine Mercy by virtue of the communion of saints and grants the faithful Plenary Indulgence at the point of death, provided that be duly disposed and habitually recited some prayers during life (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).

This Decree is valid despite any contrary provision.

Given in Rome, from the Apostolic Penitentiary, on March 19, 2020.
Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, Major Penitentiary


Note from the Apostolic Penitentiary on the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the current pandemic situation

“I am with you every day” (Mt 28,20)

The seriousness of the current circumstances requires reflection on the urgency and centrality of the sacrament of Reconciliation, together with some necessary clarifications, both for the lay faithful and for the ministers called to celebrate the sacrament.

Even in the time of Covid-19, the sacrament of Reconciliation is administered in accordance with universal canon law and in accordance with the provisions of the Ordo Paenitentiae.

Individual confession represents the ordinary way of celebrating this sacrament (cf. can. 960 CIC), while collective absolution, without prior individual confession, cannot be imparted unless where the imminent danger of death occurs. enough time to listen to the confessions of individual penitents (cf. can. 961, 1 CIC), or a serious need (cf. can. 961, § 1, 2 CIC), the consideration of which belongs to the diocesan bishop, held account of the criteria agreed with the other members of the Episcopal Conference (cf. can. 455, § 2 CIC) and without prejudice to the need for valid acquittal of the votum sacraments by the individual penitent, that is, the intention to confess to due time the individual serious sins, which at the moment it was not possible to confess (cf. can. 962, § 1 CIC).

This Apostolic Penitentiary believes that, especially in the places most affected by the pandemic contagion and until the phenomenon recurs, the cases of grave need recur, mentioned in the aforementioned can. 961, § 2 CIC.

Any further specification is delegated by right to diocesan bishops, always taking into account the supreme good of the salvation of souls (cf. can. 1752 CIC).

If the sudden need arises to impart sacramental absolution to several faithful together, the priest is obliged to warn the diocesan bishop as far as possible or, if he cannot, to inform him as soon as possible (cf. Ordo Paenitentiae, n . 32).

In the present pandemic emergency, it is therefore up to the diocesan bishop to indicate to priests and penitents the prudent considerations to be adopted in the individual celebration of sacramental reconciliation, such as the celebration in a ventilated place outside the confessional, the adoption of a convenient distance, the use of protective masks without prejudice to the absolute attention paid to safeguarding the sacramental seal and to the necessary discretion.

Furthermore, it is always up to the diocesan bishop to determine, in the territory of his ecclesiastical circumscription and in relation to the level of pandemic contagion, the cases of serious need in which it is permissible to impart collective absolution: for example at the entrance of hospital wards, where the faithful infected in danger of death are located, using the means of amplification of the voice as far as possible and with appropriate precautions, so that absolution may be heard.

To be evaluated are the need and the opportunity to set up, where necessary, in agreement with the health authorities, groups of “extraordinary hospital chaplains”, also on a voluntary basis and in compliance with the rules of protection from contagion, to guarantee the necessary spiritual assistance to sick and dying.

Where the individual faithful find themselves in the painful impossibility of receiving sacramental absolution, it is recalled that perfect contrition, coming from the love of God loved above all else, expressed by a sincere request for forgiveness (that which the penitent is currently in able to express) and accompanied by the votum confessionis, i.e. the firm resolution to resort to sacramental confession as soon as possible, obtains forgiveness of sins, even mortal (cf. CCC, n. 1452).

Never as in this time has the Church experienced the power of the communion of saints, raising vows and prayers to her Crucified and Risen Lord, in particular the Sacrifice of Holy Mass, celebrated daily, even without people, by priests.

As a good mother, the Church implores the Lord for humanity to be freed from such a scourge, invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy and Health of the Sick, and of her Spouse St. Joseph, under whose patronage the Church has always walked the world.

May Mary Most Holy and Saint Joseph obtain abundant graces of reconciliation and salvation, attentively listening to the Word of the Lord, which repeats to humanity today: “Stop and know that I am God” (Ps 46.11), “I am with you every day »(Mt 28,20).

Given in Rome, from the Apostolic Penitentiary, on March 19, 2020, Solemnity of St. Joseph, Bridegroom of the B.V. Mary, patron of the Universal Church.
Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, Major Penitentiary