How do I gain an indulgence for the dead?

Q.I understand that during the upcoming papal-declared year, we can seek plenary indulgences for the dead. Naturally, as I age, I have more and more friends who have died. What a wonderful thing if I could include them in this. Is it possible to gain multiple plenary indulgences for the deceased and, if so, how do I accomplish this? (Hull, Mass.)

A. Pope Francis has declared an extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy that begins Dec. 8, 2015, and closes Nov. 20, 2016. A holy year is also known as a jubilee year.

Among the privileges granted to the faithful during this Holy Year of Mercy is the opportunity to gain a plenary indulgence, which is the remission of all of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt already has been forgiven. This indulgence also can be applied to the deceased - to whom, in the words of Pope Francis, "we are bound … by the witness of faith and charity that they have left us."

In the past, indulgences during a holy year normally required a pilgrimage to Rome and a visit to one of the papal basilicas, but for the upcoming Holy Year of Mercy, the pope has determined that a visit to a diocesan cathedral or designated local church will suffice, together with the reception of the sacrament of penance and Communion, as well as a profession of faith and prayers for the intention of the pope.

(Pope Francis has taken care to extend the privilege to those who are precluded from visiting one of the designated churches, e.g., those who are homebound or incarcerated.)

A unique element this time is that the pope has also granted the jubilee indulgence to those who perform the traditional spiritual and corporal works of mercy (sheltering the homeless, for example, or comforting the sorrowful.)

As to your question about "multiple" beneficiaries, the jubilee indulgence may be obtained only once a day. (A single sacramental confession suffices for several plenary indulgences, but receiving Communion and praying for the intentions of the pope are required for each indulgence.)

Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at and 40 Hopewell St. Albany, N.Y. 12208.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015