THE Roman Catholic Church, through a decree issued by the Apostolic Penitentiary on Thursday, March 19, 2020, granted plenary indulgence to the faithful affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
The plenary indulgence also covers health care workers, family members and those who care and pray for their well-being.
General absolution to groups of Catholics caught up in the pandemic can also be given by priests as deemed necessary by the local bishop.
“Coronavirus attacks the physical body, but the church also has medicine for the soul sickened by sins,” said Monsignor Joseph Tan.
Tan, media liaison of the Archdiocese of Cebu, said this is the simplest explanation of the concept of plenary indulgence.
Based on the Code of the Canon Law, plenary indulgence totally frees a faithful from the temporal punishment due to sins.
Tan said temporal punishment incurred after death is a very specific Catholic doctrine as it is related to the belief in the Purgatory, which other churches do not accept.
The decree grants plenary indulgence to Catholics affected by the coronavirus if they “detach themselves from any sin and unite spiritually” through the media to the celebration of the Holy Mass and saying certain prayers like the Creed and The Lord’s Prayer.
It also asked the faithful to recite the Holy Rosary, pious practice of the Way of the Cross and invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Tan said the matter on plenary indulgence is something that should be carefully explained, as such indulgences have divided the church in the past.
“The last thing we want to do is to make it appear that the Catholic Church is superstitious and for the non-Catholic Christians to be scandalized,” he said.
In the case of the plenary indulgence, the Catholic Church will pray and apply “the grace of Jesus saving them” to lift the temporal punishment incurred when a person dies.
For the living who cannot attend mass amid the strict implementation of social distancing, the same plenary indulgence can be given to those who will participate in livestreamed masses, or read the Bible for at least 30 minutes, among others.
For Catholics who cannot receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick or call a priest before they pass away, especially those afflicted with a contagious disease, they may ask for repentance on their own.
“Not because they are afraid of the punishment, but because they acknowledge that they fell short of their love to God,” Tan said. (WBS)