While we may not be in a position to receive sacramental grace at this time, graces abound in other ways. On 19th March 2020 the Apostolic Penitentiary issued a decree of special indulgences to the faithful in the current pandemic that are available to us. Christopher Orrego of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile has also provided clarification in his blog on 25th March 2020. Here is a summary of these documents:

A plenary indulgence remits all the temporal punishment due for sins committed, for which satisfaction is made through sufferings in this life, or through purgatory in the next. To gain a plenary indulgence the following are required:

a) the performance of the act to which the indulgence is attached;

b) the intention to gain the indulgence;

c) sacramental confession;

d) Eucharistic communion;

e) prayer for the intentions of the Roman Pontiff (an Our Father and a Hail Mary suffice);

f) rejection of all attachment to sin, including venial sin, for which it is recommended to make an explicit act of contrition and of detestation of all sin including venial sins;

g) one should be in a state of sanctifying grace (ie free from any mortal sin which has not yet been forgiven) at least by the time one finishes fulfilling these conditions. Normally this condition requires sacramental confession, which forgives mortal sins even when contrition is imperfect (eg when it results from fear of hell rather than from love of God above all things). In the present circumstances the indulgence may be gained once grace has been obtained through an act of perfect contrition accompanied by the intention to fulfil the other conditions as soon as it becomes possible to do so.

In normal circumstances, conditions c), d) and e) may be fulfilled a few days (seven, for example) before or after the indulgenced act, although it is recommended that d) and e) be fulfilled on the day itself.

However, in the case of the current pandemic, which requires many people to be in quarantine or at least in partial isolation, it is sufficient to have the will to fulfil the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the Holy Father’s intentions), as soon as possible.

In the present situation, apart from those plenary indulgences which are always in force (such as attending a retreat for three days, or doing half an hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament), the Holy See has established that:
a) A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful suffering from Coronavirus, who are subject to quarantine by order of the health authority in hospitals or in their own homes if, with a spirit detached from any sin, they unite spiritually through the media to the celebration of Holy Mass, the recitation of the Holy Rosary, to the pious practice of the Way of the Cross or other forms of devotion, or if at least they recite the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and a pious invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, offering this trial in a spirit of faith in God and charity towards their brothers and sisters, with the will to fulfil the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the Holy Father’s intentions), as soon as possible.

b) Health care workers, family members and all those who, following the example of the Good Samaritan, exposing themselves to the risk of contagion, care for the sick of Coronavirus according to the words of the divine Redeemer: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15: 13), will obtain the same gift of the plenary indulgence under the same conditions.

c) The Apostolic Penitentiary also grants a 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 reading the Holy Scriptures for at least half an hour, or the recitation of the Holy Rosary, or the pious exercise of the Way of the Cross, or the recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, to implore from Almighty God the end of the epidemic, relief for those who are afflicted and eternal salvation for those whom the Lord has called to Himself.

d) The Church prays for those who find themselves unable to receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and of the Viaticum, entrusting each and every one to divine Mercy by virtue of the communion of saints and granting the faithful a plenary indulgence on the point of death, provided that they are duly disposed and have recited a few prayers during their lifetime (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.

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