VATICAN CITY (CNS): To mark the 150th anniversary of Mary’s appearance to St Bernadette Soubirous near Lourdes, France, Pope Benedict XVI authorised a special indulgence to encourage renewed holiness.
Head of the Apostolic Penitentiary Cardinal J Francis Stafford said Catholics can receive a plenary indulgence for taking part in any public or private devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes.
The Apostolic Penitentiary is a Vatican court dealing with indulgences and matters of conscience.
As Christians strive to become more holy, they can look to Mary who “calls the faithful to her son and his sacrifice and to the love of the Father”, the cardinal said, quoting from “Lumen Gentium”, the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.
The Vatican published the cardinal’s statement announcing the indulgence and outlining the requirements for receiving it on December 5.
An indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment due for sins committed. A plenary indulgence is the remission of all punishment.
Cardinal Stafford said the indulgence can also be applied to the souls of the faithful in purgatory.
Catholics can receive the indulgence during two time frames.
Pilgrims visiting the Massabielle grotto, where Mary appeared to St Bernadette, can receive the indulgence during the Lourdes jubilee year, which runs from December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, until December 8, 2008.
Pilgrims who visit any public sanctuary, shrine or other worthy place dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes may receive the indulgence from February 2-11.
Catholics who cannot visit Lourdes or join a communal service dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes because of illness or other serious reason could still earn the indulgence “in their own home or wherever they are” from February 2-11, Cardinal Stafford said.