How can we gain the indulgence for the Year of Mercy?

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP opens the Holy Door at St Mary's Cathedral in December 2015 for the start of the Year of Mercy. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP opens the Holy Door at St Mary’s Cathedral in December 2015 for the start of the Year of Mercy. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Dear Father, To gain the indulgence for the Year of Mercy do you have to do anything special after entering through the Holy Door, such as attend Mass or Benediction or say some prayers?

Pope Francis, in a letter on 1 September, 2015, to the President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation, explained what he intended in granting the Jubilee Year indulgence: “I wish that the Jubilee Indulgence may reach each one as a genuine experience of God’s mercy, which comes to meet each person in the Face of the Father who welcomes and forgives, forgetting completely the sin committed.”

The very opening of a Holy Door symbolises this opening to God’s mercy, so that we can have access to it in abundance.

What do we need to do to gain the indulgence? The Holy Father answers in that same letter: “To experience and obtain the Indulgence, the faithful are called to make a brief pilgrimage to the Holy Door, open in every Cathedral or in the churches designated by the Diocesan Bishop, and in the four Papal Basilicas in Rome, as a sign of the deep desire for true conversion. Likewise, I dispose that the Indulgence may be obtained in the shrines in which the Door of Mercy is open and in the churches which traditionally are identified as Jubilee churches.”

As is clear from this, it is sufficient to make a pilgrimage to any church which has been designated by the diocesan bishop as a site for obtaining the indulgence, without it being necessary to attend any particular function once there. Ideally one should enter through the door that has been designated as the Holy Door, in a spirit of true conversion.

It is understood that the indulgence to be gained in this way is a plenary indulgence, which takes away all the temporal punishment owing for our sins. In addition to passing through the Holy Door or doing what is indicated above if this is not possible, the person must also fulfill the usual conditions for gaining a plenary indulgence: be in the state of grace, go to the sacrament of Reconciliation some days before or afterwards, receive Communion, preferably on the same day, pray for the intentions of the pope and detest all sin, even venial sin.

In addition, the Holy Father has indicated that the person should also say the Profession of Faith or Creed: “It will be necessary to accompany these celebrations with the profession of faith and with prayer for me and for the intentions that I bear in my heart for the good of the Church and of the entire world.”

For those who are unable to visit a church because of sickness or advanced age, the Holy Father adds: “Living with faith and joyful hope this moment of trial, receiving Communion or attending Holy Mass and community prayer, even through the various means of communication, will be for them the means of obtaining the Jubilee Indulgence.” Thus these people can gain the indulgence while at home, through receiving Communion or attending Mass or some form of community prayer, even via TV, the radio or the internet.

As regards those who are in prison, the Holy Father writes beautifully: “They may obtain the indulgence in the chapels of the prisons. May the gesture of directing their thought and prayer to the Father each time they cross the threshold of their cell signify for them their passage through the Holy Door, because the mercy of God is able to transform hearts, and is also able to transform bars into an experience of freedom.”

Pope Francis also grants the indulgence every time we do a spiritual or corporal work of mercy: “Each time that one of the faithful personally performs one or more of these actions, he or she shall surely obtain the Jubilee Indulgence. Hence the commitment to live by mercy so as to obtain the grace of complete and exhaustive forgiveness by the power of the love of the Father who excludes no one. The Jubilee Indulgence is thus full, the fruit of the very event which is to be celebrated and experienced with faith, hope and charity.”

The language the pope uses suggests that this indulgence, too, is a plenary indulgence. As always, these indulgences can be offered for the souls in Purgatory and we can only obtain one plenary indulgence in any one day.

So the pope is truly opening wide the door of God’s mercy during this Jubilee Year. Let us take full advantage of it. Receiving God’s mercy will help us to be more merciful to others.