The sick, their caregivers can gain indulgences on World Day of Sick

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VATICAN CITY - The sick, their caregivers and any Catholic who prays for or lovingly assists someone who is ill can gain an indulgence with prayers and service on or around the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, which the Catholic Church marks as World Day of the Sick.

A special Mass and services marking the Feb. 11 day of prayer for the sick will be celebrated at the shrine of Our Lady of Altotting in Germany. Catholic faithful can receive one indulgence each day Feb. 7-11 by joining observances at Altotting or at any church or shrine designated by their local bishop, according to the Vatican decree announcing the indulgence.

Catholic health care professionals, volunteers and family members of the sick who cannot attend a special World Day of the Sick service "can obtain the same gift of a plenary indulgence if, during those days, they generously offer at least a few hours of loving assistance (to the sick) as if they were offering it to Christ the Lord himself," and fulfill the prayer requirements in a timely manner.

The sick and the aged who cannot attend special services can obtain the indulgence by "spiritually participating" in them, particularly if the Mass in Altotting or a local World Day of the Sick Mass is being broadcast on a local television or radio station.

The Vatican decree also said a partial indulgence is available in early February "to all the faithful every time they turn to the merciful God with a contrite heart" and pray for the sick.

An indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment a person is due for sins that have been forgiven. The faithful can claim it for themselves or offer it on behalf of someone who has died, the decree said.

The decree, which the Vatican released Jan. 28, was signed by Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro, head of the Vatican tribunal that deals with indulgences and with matters related to the sacrament of penance.

Those wishing to obtain an indulgence must pray for the sick, recite the Lord's Prayer, the creed and invoke the intercession of Mary. In addition, they must fulfill the normal conditions for obtaining an indulgence: sacramental confession, communion and praying for the intentions of the pope.

Cardinal Monteiro de Castro said Pope Benedict XVI authorized the special indulgences "so that the faithful, truly repentant and moved by charity and the example of the good Samaritan, with a spirit of faith and a merciful soul, would place themselves at the service of their suffering brothers and sisters."

In addition, the cardinal said, the pope hoped Catholics who are sick would endure "the pains and adversities of live, raising their hearts to God with humble trust and offering witness to the faith."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970