Thanks be to God for Pope Benedict XVI's generous gift of a plenary indulgence for the upcoming Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on Thursday, December 8 (see summary of the decree and conditions below). It is clear that our Holy Father is seeking to encourage a greater public manifestation of love and reverence for our Immaculate Mother. We encourage all the faithful to respectfully request our bishops and parish pastors to respond to this opportunity of grace by establishing public ceremonies of veneration to Mary Immaculate at cathedrals and parishes, in joyful acceptance of the Holy Father's gift of grace.
The instructions of the decree approved by the Holy Father which grants the plenary indulgence remain open as to the specific form and implementation of public veneration of the Immaculate Mother for the solemnity. The plenary indulgence will be granted under the usual conditions to any of the faithful "if they participate in a sacred function in honor of the Virgin, or at least offer open testimony of Marian devotion before an image of Mary Immaculate exposed for public veneration, adding the recitation of the Our Father and of the Creed, and some invocation to the Virgin."
It would greatly facilitate the reception of this plenary indulgence if cathedral rectors and parish pastors would consider placing an image of Our Lady (statue, picture, icon, etc.) in a suitably significant location in the church for public veneration by the faithful. It would also be most helpful to the faithful if pastors could establish some form of public Marian devotion for the solemnity, for example: a) leading the people in the praying of the Litany of Our Lady before the Marian image after the conclusion of each solemnity Mass; b) praying the Rosary before the image either before or after the liturgical celebration; or c) setting up a separate Marian devotional service during the evening of December 8, where public veneration of Our Lady could include scripture readings, a brief homily, the recitation of the Rosary, or even, where possible, the incorporation of Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction.
Although a public ceremony is not strictly required for reception of the plenary indulgence, since any form of "open testimony of Marian devotion before an image of Mary Immaculate exposed for public veneration" is sufficient, the establishing of public ceremonies of Marian veneration will certainly facilitate a maximum reception of this gift of grace by the faithful. For those who are unable to participate in a public ceremony or venerate an image of the Immaculate Virgin "through illness or other just cause," the plenary indulgence may still be received by uniting themselves in spirit to the intentions of the Holy Father in his prayer to Mary Immaculate (see conditions below).
Let us, as the People of God, do all we can to receive this sublime gift of grace from Pope Benedict XVI, who is using the keys of Peter to unlock the Church's treasuries of grace in honor of "our Common Mother" who is "Mother of God and spiritual Mother of us all."
Dr. Mark Miravalle Professor of Theology and Mariology Franciscan University of Steubenville
According to a decree made public on Tuesday, November 29, 2005, Benedict XVI will grant the faithful a Plenary Indulgence for the forthcoming Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (December 8, 2005). The decree is signed by Cardinal James Francis Stafford and Fr. John Francis Girotti, O.F.M. Conv., respectively penitentiary major and regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary.
"December 8," the text reads, "will mark 40 years since Servant of God Paul VI, Supreme Pontiff, who had already proclaimed the Virgin Mary as Mother of the Church, in closing Vatican Council II dedicated great praise to the Virgin who, as Mother of Christ, is Mother of God and spiritual Mother to us all."
"On this Solemnity, the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, when he renders public homage of praise to Mary Immaculate, has the heartfelt desire that the entire Church should join with him, so that all the faithful, united in the name of the common Mother, become ever stronger in the faith, adhere with greater devotion to Christ, and love their brothers with more fervent charity. From here—as Vatican Council II very wisely taught—arise works of mercy towards the needy, observance of justice, and the defense of and search for peace."
For this reason, the decree continues, the Holy Father "has kindly granted the gift of a Plenary Indulgence which may be obtained under the usual conditions (sacramental Confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer in keeping with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff), with the soul completely removed from attachment to any form of sin, on the forthcoming Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, by the faithful if they participate in a sacred function in honor of the Virgin, or at least offer open testimony of Marian devotion before an image of Mary Immaculate exposed for public veneration, adding the recitation of the Our Father and of the Creed, and some invocation to the Virgin."
The document concludes by recalling that faithful who "through illness or other just cause," are unable to participate in a public ceremony or to venerate an image of the Virgin, "may obtain a Plenary Indulgence in their own homes, or wherever they may be, if, with the soul completely removed from any form of sin, and with the intention of observing the aforesaid conditions as soon as possible, they unite themselves in spirit and in desire to the Supreme Pontiff's intentions in prayer to Mary Immaculate, and recite the Our Father and the Creed."
Summary of decree compliments of Vatican Information Services
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