Pope Francis greets the elderly priest-residents of Casa San Gaetano in Rome on June 17, 2016. | Vatican Media.
The Vatican announced on Monday that Catholics can obtain a plenary indulgence by visiting an elderly person on the second World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.
A decree issued by the Apostolic Penitentiary on May 30 said that the indulgence is available “to the faithful who devote adequate time to visit, in presence or virtually, through the media, their elderly brothers and sisters in need or in difficulty” on July 24.
The indulgence can also be gained by Catholics present at a solemn commemoration of the annual event by Pope Francis that day or at celebrations around the world.
An indulgence — defined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church as “a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven” — will be available under the usual conditions of Confession, Holy Communion, and prayer in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.
According to the Catechism, an indulgence can be either partial or plenary, depending on whether it “removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.”
The new decree signed by the Major Penitentiary Cardinal Mauro Piacenza and Regent Father Krzysztof Nykiel said: “The plenary indulgence may also be granted, provided that they remove themselves from any sin and with the intention of fulfilling the three usual conditions as soon as possible, to the sick elderly and to all those who, unable to leave their homes for a serious reason, will unite spiritually with the sacred services of the World Day, offering to the Merciful God their prayers, and the pains and sufferings of their lives, especially while the words of the Supreme Pontiff and the various celebrations are broadcast through the media.”
“Old age is no time to give up and lower the sails, but a season of enduring fruitfulness: a new mission awaits us and bids us look to the future,” he wrote in the 1,600-word message.
The 85-year-old pope, who has made public appearances in a wheelchair due to knee pain since May 5, has highlighted the importance of care and respect for the elderly throughout his pontificate.
The Apostolic Penitentiary’s decree concluded with an appeal to priests.
“In order, therefore, that this opportunity to attain divine grace through the power of the Keys of the Church may be more easily realized through pastoral charity, this Penitentiary firmly requests priests, equipped with the appropriate faculties to hear confessions, to make themselves available with a ready and generous spirit for the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance,” it said.