Catholics attending this year’s national March for Life in Washington, D.C., have the opportunity to receive a plenary indulgence. As announced in a letter from Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, the indulgence may be obtained by those who “are truly penitential and compelled by charity, which indeed they can apply to the souls of the faithful held in Purgatory, by way of suffrage, if they take part in the sacred celebrations, along with the great assembly of people, throughout the whole course of the annual event that is called ‘March for Life,’ which will be carried out on the eighteenth and nineteenth days of January 2018” in the diocese of Arlington and the archdiocese of Washington.
WHAT IS AN INDULGENCE?
An indulgence is the remission of temporal punishment due to sin. In the same way that priests may forgive sins through the sacrament of penance, the Church has the authority to remit the punishment of sin outside the sacrament. While indulgences are associated with certain acts, these acts do not “earn” or “buy” forgiveness; they instead teach us that we must strive to make amends for our sins and show us the effect of good works — in this case, the noble undertaking of defending the value and dignity of each human life — in the life of God’s grace.
THE CONDITIONS OF THE INDULGENCE
To obtain this plenary indulgence, the faithful must not only participate in sacred celebrations held in the dioceses of Arlington or Washington during the March for Life, they must also fulfill the three usual conditions of an indulgence — sacramental Confession, Holy Communion and prayers for the intentions of the Holy Father.
FOR THOSE UNABLE TO ATTEND THE MARCH
Those who are elderly, sick, or have a “grave reason” for not leaving their home also may obtain the indulgence, provided they are detached from sin, spiritually join themselves to the holy ceremonies, offer their sufferings to the merciful God and fulfill, as soon as they are able, the three usual conditions of an indulgence.