Plenary Indulgence

Pope Francis Proclaims a Plenary Indulgence by Apostolic Decree

A Plenary Indulgence “is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guild has already been forgiven” (CCC 1471).

Since 2013, the Vatican has granted our pilgrims and volunteers the opportunity to receive a plenary indulgence for service on pilgrimage or at Lourdes Virtual Pilgrimage Experience™ under the usual terms and conditions.

For the first time in the history of the Catholic Church, a Plenary Indulgence was granted for a “virtual” experience as equal to an actual experience.

Lourdes Virtual Pilgrimage Experience™ truly shares the experience of pilgrimage to Lourdes: pilgrims touch actual rock from the Grotto and water from the spring, after which they unite in live Rosary and Eucharistic processions.

Affirming the Response to the 10th Year Jubilee Plenary Indulgence Honoring

Our Lady of Lourdes Hospitality North American Volunteers 

by Apostolic Papal Decree a Plenary Indulgence

is granted to faithful making pilgrimage to Lourdes or experiencing Lourdes in a Virtual Pilgrimage with North American Lourdes Volunteers by fulfilling the usual norms and conditions between July 16, 2013 thru July 15, 2020.

About Plenary Indulgences

What is a plenary indulgence?

Jesus Christ lovingly sacrificed Himself for the salvation of humanity.  Through Baptism, we are freed from the Original Sin of disobedience inherited from Adam and Eve.  With our gift of free will we can choose to sin, personally separating ourselves from God. Although we can be completely forgiven, temporal (temporary) consequences of sin remain.  Indulgences are special graces that can rid us of temporal punishment.    

“An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven.” (CCC 1471)  There are two types of indulgences: plenary and partial.  A plenary indulgence removes all of the temporal punishment due to sin; a partial indulgence removes some but not all of the temporal punishment.

What is temporal punishment for sin?

Temporal punishment for sin is the sanctification from attachment to sin, the purification to holiness needed for us to be able to enter Heaven.

Imagine a child disobeys his father by playing ball in the house. In the excitement, a window is broken. The father discovers the shattered glass  and is disappointed; their relationship is damaged. The child is sorry, apologizes and is completely forgiven. Although their relationship is restored, the window remains broken, a reality of accountability for the damage caused by sinful actions and that reparation is still needed.   

Our actions assume liabilities and consequences.  We must consider a  root cause to our unholy behaviors.  What unhealthy attachment within us (i.e., “thrill seeking” to play ball) led us toward sin? 

Each time we sin we strengthen an unhealthy behavior, a consequence of sin that is spiritually damaging and distances us from God. Not only must we repent and be forgiven through the Sacrament of Reconciliation for our wrong doing, but we must be completely rid of the wrongful attachment within us that led us to sin. We must be totally detached from anything unholy.    

Our relationship with God is much the same as the child and father with the broken window. We can be forgiven and our relationship with God restored through a Sacramental Confession, yet we still must also make reparation for the damages.   Satisfaction for the reparation (temporal punishment) can be fulfilled in this life or afterward, in Purgatory.  

How can I be rid of temporal punishments of sin?

Indulgences are special graces that can rid us of temporal punishment.

To enter into Heaven, we must be completely purified of all temporal punishment for sin. 

Practicing good works of mercy and charity (such as volunteer service in Lourdes), as well as living a life of prayer and penance (as the Mother of God requested in Lourdes), can help us to live a holy life and to be rid of the temporal punishment due for our sins.

Satisfaction of reparation for sin can also be obtained through Indulgences by performing the required acts and fulfilling the conditions.

How can the Church give indulgences?

The Church is able to grant indulgences by exercising her authority to bind and to loose on earth as granted to her by Jesus Christ Himself. (Matthew 18:18) 

Drawing from her Treasury consisting of the merits of Christ, the Mother of God and the Saints, the Church can graciously grant an indulgence (fix the broken window) on behalf of a Catholic for their temporal punishment. 

The Church does not offer indulgences as an “easy fix” in lieu of just punishment but as a generous gift which urges the faithful to perform works of piety, penance and charity in an effort to detach from sin, grow in faith and promote holiness benefiting the  common good of all.    

How can I gain this Plenary Indulgence?

Any baptized Catholic is eligible for indulgences formally decreed by the Church.  Indulgences have a specific act as well as conditions that must be performed to acquire the indulgence.  The usual conditions are: 

  • make a Sacramental Confession with a Catholic priest;
  • receive the Holy Eucharist;
  • pray for the intentions of the Pope (Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be);
  • have a heart and mind free from all attachment to sin.   

It is recommended that these conditions be met on the same day or at the same time of the act.  If the disposition is less than complete in any way or if the conditions are not fulfilled, the indulgence is only partial.

 To acquire this Plenary Indulgence granted by the Holy Father through Our Lady of Lourdes Hospitality North American Volunteers, between July 16, 2013 and July 15, 2020, with the conditions, a person must:


  • Join Lourdes Volunteers on pilgrimage to Lourdes, or
  • Experience a Virtual Pilgrimage with Lourdes Volunteers.
Can I give my indulgence to someone else?

Besides offering an indulgence for ourselves, we can also offer up an indulgence for someone who has died as a way of interceding for them in Purgatory. We cannot offer an indulgence for someone who is living.

For information, please refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,  Apostolic Constitution Indulgentiarum Doctrina.