Pope Francis grants a plenary indulgence to all the Catholic faithful who are not impeded by any penalty or censure and participate at the Mass at the Eucharistic Congress.

What is an indulgence?

The word indulgence comes from the Latin indulgentia, to be kind or tender. It originally meant kindness or favor and later came to mean the remission of a tax or debt. As used in the teachings of the Church, the word reflects the kindness and mercy of God and the remission of the temporal punishment due to sin. As stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin” (Catechism, §1471). What is the temporal punishment due to sin? It is the human condition whereby we prefer this life to eternal life, the material world to the spiritual realm, our own will to God’s will. The trials and tribulations that accompany this condition, because we are immersed in “temporal” or non-eternal things, are the temporal punishment of our sinful condition.

In the Sacrament of Penance, sins are forgiven and the eternal punishment associated with those sins is remitted, but the temporal punishment of sin remains. However, throughout our lives, we must atone for this temporal punishment through prayer, penance and works of charity. To the extent possible, we must “put away the old self and put on the new self, created in God’s way” (Ephesians 4:22, 24). If at the end of our lives we remain attached to temporal things, purifying grace is still extended to us in the state called “purgatory,” so that we can prefer God to all else and enter eternal life with an undivided heart. Whether in this life or the next, our destiny is eternal union with God. The Church assists us in this effort through the granting of indulgences. Each opportunity to obtain an indulgence is a wonderful opportunity to grow in holiness. By following the prescribed requirements, the faithful gain the full or partial remission of temporal punishment in this life-a great blessing on the spiritual journey toward union with God.

There are two types of indulgences. A ­partial indulgence is just what it says – it removes “part” of the punishment owed for sin. A plenary indulgence accounts for all of the liability for punishment owed by one for forgiven sins up to that time.